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Save African Teens, Train Their Teachers

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Of the many effects of the pandemic, one of the most deeply felt by teens and children is that it widened the existing gaps in education across Africa. One of these gaps is the digital divide that now hinders many students in Africa from participating in the virtual learning setup that the pandemic made necessary.

This will then have to mean that, for Africa, at least, teachers remain the real deal for her educational system, not teach. So, while public and private stakeholders work to make technology more accessible across Africa and her educational system, we can’t stop prioritizing quality and capable teachers for students and pupils in Africa.

And by implication, we need to return to the professional development of educators in Africa and them honour them as they deserve.

Education begins with teachers, and no education system in the world can change until they are prioritized. Meanwhile, the general perception that the entry requirements for a teaching degree are among the least rigorous for all degrees does the teaching profession no favours.

It is true that we can’t give what we don’t have. Therefore, people need rigorous education to be effective and efficient educators. However, with that not being the case across Africa, a depressing cycle of under-preparation and under-service, where teachers scarcely understand what they teach has become the norm.

A teacher raising her finger alongside her pupils to signify her need to also learn in order to teach her pupils better. Image Source: Global Partnership for Education

With the exception of political office holders, perhaps, there is no other sector where Africans put so little faith in the people who deliver the outcome. We mandate medical personnel to be qualified and capable. Accountants need to have degrees and experience. However, with education, we seemingly don’t care for the quality of the educators.

Almost everyone has a story to tell of a teacher who impacted their lives positively at one time or another, yet, we give little attention or acknowledgement to the profession.

Going forward, we should not only celebrate students’ achievements, but also celebrate the role the teachers played in bringing the success about.

Teaching should be a profession that is admired across Africa and attractive to more brillaint, interested and capable people. We, as a continent, must also figure out ways to provide a rigorous training and ongoing professional development to teachers.

For clarity, we should still use technology to facilitate our educational system. However, we must understand that tech is just one tool in a larger teacher-led arsenal for providing an wholesome educational experience (for teenagers, children) across Africa.

The pandemic is not about to leave education across Africa alone just yet. But for African education to thrive, educators must be trained to be capable and to believe in their learners’ ability to learn and succeed. They should also be empowered with the right tools and resources to drive student achievement and growth.

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