In Africa, teachers are agents of change during the pandemic

Join us in celebrating the role of all teachers across the world as essential workers during the pandemic, and as the driving force in transforming learners.

Children with their teacher during Africa Code Week in Rwanda, October 2016. Photo credit: Photogenix Studio Ltd

This post is the 10th in a blog series published in 2020 in the context of a collaboration between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

October 5th marks World Teachers Day, an annual commemoration of the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation about the Status of Teachers. With the theme “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”, this year’s celebrations take place in a world completely changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we celebrate World Teachers Day, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of our teachers in building resilience and shaping the future of education during a time of immense change and disruption.

Adapting to new teaching conditions during the crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the provision of primary and secondary education across Africa. More than 250 million primary and secondary school children in Africa are not attending school. In many countries, lockdown measures implemented to curb the spread of the virus has left many schools still closed and unable to accommodate learners.

While many schools implemented remote learning practices to ensure continuity of learning during the lockdown, many children – especially in rural and poorer areas – simply do not have access to the tools and connectivity needed for remote learning.

In many cases, teachers have done their best to rise to the challenge, recording lessons for TV or radio programs, connecting with their students over the phone, hosting “call-in” events for students with questions, and even visiting their students in remote areas.

However, a shortage of teachers is complicating matters. A 2016 UNESCO study found that nearly 69 million new teachers are needed by 2030 to provide every child with primary and secondary school education. In sub-Saharan Africa, 70% of countries face shortages of teachers - at secondary level, this rises to 90% of countries.

Teachers are indispensable in the fight for quality education for all and the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as well as SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

The digitization of education

Over the last few months, more than 1.5 billion young people were affected by school closures across 183 countries due to COVID-19. Organizing practical and fun virtual education became a necessity.

According to the latest ADEA report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s Education, teachers and learners – despite all challenges – have expressed some degree of satisfaction, enthusiasm and commitment in adapting to the new model of education, with a gradual development of online skills by learners and teachers.

Examples of how teachers have helped transition the continent to digital learning and assisted education systems to be more resilient include Côte d’Ivoire’s Center for the Promotion of ICTs (CPNTIC) which put in place an online training system. Teachers produced digital courses under the supervision of the inspectorate and the central directorates of the ministry of national education and technical and vocational training.

A call center was also set-up to support learners using the platform. This innovative strategy allowed learners to log in and download more than 800 online courses for continuous learning, with an average of 2,000 connections per day.

For learners in higher education, a broadcasting system has been set up with the support of the Virtual University of Abidjan Cocody, in addition to the alternative teaching and learning being offered by teachers via Microsoft Teams coupled with in-situ subgroup learner cohorts.

A similar example can be found in Rwanda, where thanks to the Rwanda Education Board (REB) e-learning platform, teachers could create a virual class, lessons and enroll students to be able to read and conduct formative assessments, and receive automatic feedback.

Partnering with the private sector to improve teaching

While many governments have prioritized the training of teachers, there is tremendous scope for greater support from the private and NGO sectors to augment government efforts and ensure teachers are equipped to prepare our youth for the 21st century digital economy.

When you teach a child to code, he/she doesn’t just learn to operate a computer, they acquire what global educators consider as the true game changer: ‘computational thinking’. To solve the increasingly complex and socio-economic challenges ahead of us, including responding to crisis like the current pandemic, more and more children and youth should learn these skills.

To this end, it is key to strengthen teacher professional development to embrace the new education delivery approaches, where parents and the community at large play their part to ensure continuity of education at home, especially for early learners.

Governments can leverage the lessons learnt from the successful partnerships and collaborations (e.g. the Global Education Coalition for COVID-19 Response launched by UNESCO, GPE Knowledge & Innovation Exchange (KIX) on Education, Africa Code Week) during COVID-19 to improve their future engagement with stakeholders in times of crisis.

The challenges brought this year require new solutions born from greater collaboration between the public, private and NGO sectors.

Business as usual is not an option any more. Preparing our youth for the uncertain future requires a radical rethink of how we train, empower and mobilize our teaching resources.

2020 Africa Code Week

This year, ADEA is partnering with Africa’s biggest digital skills development initiative, SAP Africa Code Week (ACW). First established by SAP corporate social responsibility, UNESCO and partners in 2015, ACW has empowered millions of youth and trained thousands of teachers across the continent.

SAP is also a partner in UNESCO’s global coalition, and in this role has been working with partners to find solutions to the continuity of learning, digitization and teacher development across Africa (and globally) to help empower our future workforce for tomorrow’s digital economy, one student and one teacher at a time.

Africa Code Week 2020 officially starts on World Teachers Day, October 5. To find out more visit