Teachers Shoulder the Burden: Improving Support in Crisis Contexts

Globally 75 million children who cannot access education as a result of crises. A dated photo of a Syrian child in a refugee camp in Jordan. Credit: Robert Stefanicki/IPS.

Globally 75 million children who cannot access education as a
result of crises. A dated photo of a Syrian child in a refugee camp
in Jordan. Credit: Robert Stefanicki/IPS.

By Yasmine Sherif, Dean Brooks and Mary Mendenhall
NEW YORK, Oct 5 2020 (IPS)

Teachers are at the heart of children and young peoples’
educational experiences. Teachers play multiple roles in their
students’ lives by supporting their learning, providing them with
inclusive and safe environments to grow and develop, and helping
them become more confident as they make their way in the world. As
we commemorate
World Teachers’ Day
on Monday, 5 October and its
theme–Teachers: Leading in Crisis, Reimagining the Future–we
must recognize the inspiring and transformative role that teachers
working in armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change
induced disasters and protracted crises play in their students’

Even before the global pandemic, the lives and education of
million children
and youth worldwide were already disrupted by
crisis. Teachers living and working in these settings provide a
lifeline to the young people desperate to be learning in school.
Yet, they are often placed in classrooms with little to no training
or professional development, and expected to work miracles with few
teaching and learning resources and insufficient compensation. They
also regularly encounter over-crowded classrooms with mixed-age
students who need both academic and social-emotional support. All
too often, teachers, schools and students are also subject to
violent attacks, particularly in armed conflict settings.

Despite these challenges, teachers persist. They provide a sense
of stability and structure in their classrooms that is desperately
needed amidst unrest and displacement. Teachers working in these
environments are innovative and resourceful in meeting the learning
and development needs of their students. These teachers are
forced to
reimagine education
” and the futures of their learners
everyday, something they were doing even before the coronavirus
pandemic further exacerbated the challenges they already faced.

Yasmine Sherif

In Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya, a Kindergarten
teacher (a refugee from Uganda) created a garden inside her
classroom to help her students learn about soil, seeds, markets and
communities since there weren’t enough textbooks for her students
to learn these topics. Despite the additional challenges posed by
the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers’ unwavering commitment has
continued, including the adoption of digital and remote learning
tools and methods. As Mona Ibrahim, a teacher in Lebanon
, ‘We used these tools during the 2012 conflict, as
well as during the 2014 conflict, and now we are using it during
the crisis of the coronavirus.’

Teachers working in contexts affected by conflict and disasters
often experience the same disruption, violence, and displacement as
their students. While they work tirelessly to provide psychosocial
support to their students, they are rarely provided with this
support themselves. A Somali refugee teacher in Kakuma refugee camp
shared this sentiment in a
recent report
on teacher well-being: “All my problems which
I’m getting at home, I’m just carrying them to the

In many settings, compounding crises, suspended teacher salary
payments and schools regularly coming under attack mean teachers
are often forced to find alternative sources of income to provide
for their families. In Yemen, an estimated 160,000 teachers and
school-based staff have not received regular salary payments since
2016 due to the ongoing famine, conflict and spread of disease.
This is why Education Cannot Wait
(ECW) and other education leaders are today calling for the
resumption of teacher salary payments
and training for Yemeni
teachers, and why ECW funds teacher training and, in certain
contexts, provides incentives for teachers in crisis-affected

To respond to teachers’ needs, our organizations, Education Cannot Wait
and the Inter-agency Network for
Education in Emergencies
(INEE) have forged a new partnership
to build a toolkit that focuses on teacher well-being, particularly
in emergency settings – a resource that will be developed in
collaboration with teachers. The toolkit will further supplement
the INEE Minimum Standards for
Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery
, the global
framework for delivering quality education in emergencies, and the
work of INEE’s Teachers
in Crisis Contexts Collaborative

Concrete action steps like this are important. Better support
for teachers working in crisis contexts will help ensure that
millions of children and youth receive the right to inclusive and
equitable quality education, and that global commitments—such as
the Sustainable
Development Goals
and the Global
Compact on Refugees
—are fulfilled.

Based on our respective work – both in financing and guiding
the development of inter-agency standards, tools and support for
education in emergencies, here are five additional ways that
national governments, donors, and all relevant global, regional,
national, and local stakeholders – and teachers themselves –
can work together to improve teacher policies and practices:

Prioritize teachers from the
very onset of an emergency, through to recovery and development,
with increased financial investments, better data, and effective
planning so that adequate numbers of teachers, including female and
minority teachers, are teaching where and when they are needed

Respect teachers, including volunteers and
facilitators, as individuals and professionals with appropriate and
equitable recruitment policies, pay and employment terms, and
working conditions.

Enable teachers to support all learners by
continuously investing in and dramatically improving the nature and
quality of teacher preparation, continuous professional
development, and sustained support.

Support teachers’ well-being, recognizing
the impact of crises on teachers in their own lives and in their
ability to do their work, and providing comprehensive support to
teachers at the individual, school, community, and national

Listen to teachers’ experiences and
, by including them in decision-making bodies and
coordination mechanisms, program design and implementation, and
research efforts.

Ongoing armed conflicts, crises and disasters have pushed
millions of children and youth out of school around the world.
Today’s ongoing health pandemic is doing further damage by
rolling back progress that has been made in many places to get
children and youth back into school and learning, especially for
girls. Despite the compounding impact of COVID-19, it has also
heightened our awareness of the vital role that teachers play. Now
more than ever, we have a chance to transform education systems
through the support we provide to teachers. Let us work together to
do just that. Teachers around the world deserve nothing less.


Yasmine Sherif is the Director of Education
Cannot Wait. To donate to Education Cannot Wait’s work for
teachers and students in emergencies, visit http://www.pledgeling.org/ECW
and follow @EduCannotWait on Twitter.

Dean Brooks is the Director of the Inter-agency
Network for Education in Emergencies. To find out more about INEE
and to access inter-agency tools and resources to support teachers
in crisis contexts please visit https://inee.org/collections/teachers
and follow @INEEtweets on Twitter.

Mary Mendenhall, Ed.D., is an Associate
Professor of Practice at Teachers College, Columbia University and
a member of the INEE Teachers in Crisis Contexts Collaborative. To
learn more about Dr. Mendenhall’s work, see her faculty profile
and refugee
education projects at Teachers College
, and follow her at
@marymendenhall1 on Twitter.


The post
Teachers Shoulder the Burden: Improving Support in Crisis
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Teachers Shoulder the Burden: Improving Support in Crisis