By Education Cannot Wait
Nov 13 2020 (IPS-Partners)
Despite the various challenges they face, teachers are showing incredible dedication to their profession, writes Leandro Salazar-Lievano, our education expert deployed to UNHCR Mali.
Teaching has always played an important part in my personal and professional life. From my first teacher back in pre-primary to my adult years in university and my own experience as a language teacher in Colombia and France; it has shaped the way I think and perceive this world.
Through teaching, I learned about myself and to be mindful of others by caring about people’s learning and development process. Through teaching, I discovered the important role education plays in every society, which made the education sector my battlefield and people’s learning my life goal.
Preventing conflict and trauma through education
At UNHCR Mali, we place a special focus on teachers’ capacity development and strengthening in our education interventions in conflict-affected zones. We understand how important it is for communities at large to have well equipped, motivated, committed, inspiring female and male teachers as role models for the current and future generations.
For displaced communities in hosting regions, it means an opportunity for children to find safety and protection as we strengthen teachers’ capacity to address stress and trauma through mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in safe, friendly, and inclusive learning environments.
For the country, it means the promotion and preservation of a peaceful nation, in which youth are essential actors contributing to peace-building processes.
Teacher training in Mali
Our most recent teachers’ training session took place in Mali’s Gao region during the week the international day of the teacher is commemorated.
Thirty-six female and male teachers and school principals participated in an Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs-funded six-day training on Covid-19 prevention in schools. Facilitated jointly by the regional education authority and UNHCR Mali’s education unit, the training focused on MHPSS and Education in Emergencies (EiE).
Every teacher had a story and a good practice to share, and the sessions became the right place to exchange about challenges and ways forward. I witnessed the commitment of each of them in giving their best to maintaining children at school – safe and learning – and to contribute to maintaining peace in their communities.
I love what I do
“What motivates me most in my profession is the love for children. I love what I do,” Maria, a young teacher, explains.
Like her, teachers in Mali showcase an intrinsic motivation towards the profession despite the various challenges they face, mostly in terms of security, threats, attacks against them, and limited resources. Other teachers, like Issa, manifest that their motivation lies in contributing to the development of future generations and highlights the role everyone plays as models in society.
They were also aware of their key contribution in reducing school dropout rates among children, as well as the impact of being out of school has on children’s safety, protection and future. Once children drop out, they become easy targets for early marriage and pregnancy, sexual exploitation and abuse, recruitment into armed groups, child labour, and other protection risks that hinder the fulfillment of their life goals.
Through education, I was able and continue to fulfill my own life goals. Refugee, internally displaced and host community children deserve the same fate, and teachers in Mali are doing all it takes to make that become a reality for hundreds of thousands of children across the country.
To all of them, my sincere admiration and unconditional support.
Responding to COVID-19
Earlier this year, Education Cannot Wait launched a series of COVID-19 education in emergencies responses. In Mali, a total of $1.5 million was allocated to UNICEF ($750,000) and UNHCR ($750,000).
Activities supported through this series of emergency grants run from 6 to 12 months and include:
- • Emergency Education Measures: With the total disruption of the usual education systems in emergency-affected areas, grants are to support alternative delivery models, including informal education materials at the household level, as well as scaling up distance education programmes, particularly via interactive radio. Social emotional learning and psychosocial support are prominent components of the academic curriculum to be provided in these alternative delivery models.
• Messaging and Support Around Risks: ECW grants are to support information campaigns and the scaling up of risk communications and community engagement with target populations. Messaging, tailored to local languages and contexts, are to give practical advice about how to stay safe, including through handwashing and social distancing. Refugees, displaced and marginalized people may also experience xenophobia and stigma, requiring mental health and psychosocial support. Parents and teachers are to receive COVID19-specific guidance to promote the resilience and the psychosocial wellbeing of children and youth at home.
• Upgrading Water and Sanitation Facilities in Schools: This is to benefit both students and the wider community as handwashing is a first line of defense against COVID-19. Even when schools and learning facilities are officially closed, in many cases there is still access to these facilities, and they can serve as crucial hubs to increase access to handwashing and distribute hygiene materials and kits.
In Mali, after flooding devastated parts of the country, ECW established school feeding programmes that encouraged children to stay in school or to return if they had dropped out. The intervention reached more learners than planned, feeding 32,689 children (16,746 girls/15,943 boys) in 35 primary schools and 47 early childhood development centres.
Learn more about the impact of ECW-funded programming in Mali and the Sahel Region in our 2019 Annual Report.