Revalorising the teaching profession in Africa: ADEA calls on teachers to embrace self-reflection and deeper connection with learners as a first step

Photo Credit: ADEA

"One thread that connects all initiatives aimed at returning a higher value to the teaching profession in Africa, and where the work must start, is the inner-reflection by teachers – deliberately embracing the intrinsic aspect of motivation towards self-empowerment..."

This was the main message from the acting Executive Secretary of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), Mr. Shem Bodo, in his keynote speech delivered at the 10th African Confederation of Principals (ACP) Conference in Mombasa, Kenya from 6th to 10th August 2018.

The conference, officialy opened by H.E. Hon. Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya under the theme "Educating the African Child: Revalorizing the Teaching Profession", brought together thousands of secondary school principals and educators from Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda. President Kenyatta empahised the importance of pan-Africanism and unity – teaching children that they are Africans first, the criticality of inclusive and quality education for achieving sustainable development, and an education system that produces graduates with skills aligned to labour market demands, thereby coverting Africa’s wealth to African’s wealth. The President urged ACP to seek observer status in the African Union, promising to support such a move. 

In his keynote address, Mr. Bodo first presented the Association’s vision and its new strategy of promoting innovative policies and practices through pooling and dissemination of ideas, experiences, learning and knowledge based on two pillars – Continental Education Platform & country-focused Advisory and Execution Support Services. This new strategy intends to empower African countries to develop education and training systems that respond to their emergent needs and drive Africa’s socio-economic transformation sustainably. He also cited segmented education sub-sectors, weak ability to effectivelty implement education reforms, the emergence and dynamism of technology, declining social credibility of the profession and low levels of job satisfaction among teachers as some of the systemic challenges facing Africa’s education.

Mr. Bodo further noted the high premium the African Union has placed on the teaching profession, with teacher development being the first of the 12 strategic objectives of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25). On its part, ADEA has devoted a specific Inter-Country Quality Node (ICQN) led by Rwanda, that deals with aspects of teaching and learning, and coordinates the Network of African Learning Assessments (NALA) with Zambia and Senegal as co-leaders. Previous high level policy dialogue forums, such as the 2017 ADEA Triennale, placed the issues of teachers and values at the centre of the discourse.

Recognising and acknowledging the many ongoing initiatives aimed atre-conferring greater status to the teaching profession (monetary and non-monetary motivational incentives; greater delegation with responsibility and team attribution; paradigm shifts in pedagogy towards more learner-centered approaches due, partly to ICTs and free access to information; exploting the strong correlation existing between school principal’s emotional intelligence and school performance; teacher training and continuous professional development; teacher empowerment and intrinsic motivation programs; etc.), the acting ADEA Executive Secretary noted that the real transformation must begin with the teacher’s introspection as part of self-empowerment. This is in addition to embracing a spirituality that facilitates a deeper connection with the learner and the subject. As a transcendence in learning, a connecting rope that enables teachers to be at home with themselves, and a wholeness that promotes compassion, such spirituality enables self-awareness, presence and a solid level of engagement on the part of the teacher, thereby remaining the respected and trusted influencer, facilitator and protector, in the eyes of the learner. This means making the learner understand the greater value of learning and the fact that this can potentially “build” or “destroy” future societies, thereby impacting the sustainability in diverse ways. Society will then begin to see value in this profession, and act accordingly, when the learner is at the centre of focus, and when the teacher feels, acts and exudes an aura of self-empowerment. 

In terms of support to this cause of revalorizing the teaching profession in Africa, Mr. Bodo highlighted some recommendations from the African Union, such as ensuring that teachers have a voice; investing in re-valorizing their status and the profession; providing the right incentives to enhance teacher motivation; and improving and expanding continuous professional development programs to recognize that teaching is a lifelong profession and that teachers need lifelong learning opportunities. He urged African governments to effectively coordinate all actors supporting the formulation or review of public policies on teachers and teaching, to lead the shift from teaching to pedagogy; improving teacher status through pedagogical training, career evolution, greater links to research and public recognition; and creating the environment for greater collaboration between teachers, learners and policy makers.

Beyond their traditional roles of advocacy and negotiations in policy formulation and implementation, and collective bargaining for labour rights and working conditions, teachers' unions and other teachers' representatives need to expand their social dialogue contribution to include looking into institutionalization of teacher empowerment through institutionalized training programs. Due to the strong link between the principal’s emotional intelligence and school performance, principals can help build the critical mass of self-empowered teachers that connect their schools to the world, while development partners, private sector players and civil society can provide technical and financial support to teacher empowerment projects aligned to Government plans and programs. Finally, regional organizations such as ADEA will be able to identify working teacher empowerment initiatives, through studies, that can be scaled up and/or replicated and showcase these in high level policy dialogue forums.

Mr. Bodo concluded his address by reiteriating to the principals that the starting point and first resource for teacher motivation strategies must be teachers themselves. This conference, jointly organized by the Ministry of Education, Kenya; the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association; and  the Kenya Teachers Service Commission,provided an opportunity for ADEA to reiterate its important role as the voice of education in Africa. Kenya was handed the leadership role of the Confederation from South Africa and the Kenya Association of Headteachers national chairperson, Indimuli Kahi, formally took over the ACP presidency from South Africa’s Thembekile Ndlovu.

About African Confederation of Principals

The African Confederation of Principals (ACP) is the umbrella body for African school principals that meet bi-annually. ACP provides principals with a forum for professional growth, bench marking and sharing of experiences for the development of globally competitive African schools while promoting effective continental communications that foster the exchange of ideas, projects, educational practices and sharing of professional expertise. 

For more information, contact Shem Bodo (s.bodo@afdb.org) or visit www.acponline.africa.