World Teacher Day: recognising the contributions of teachers amid global crisis

08 May 2021

Related: Education
When schools were closed because of the pandemic, JRS teachers in Afghanistan started English language lesson broadcasts on Herat-AVA radio station to reach marginalised communities. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

As we mark World Teachers’ Day 2020, JRS calls attention to the thousands of teachers working throughout the world on behalf of displaced students.  In its global education projects, JRS trains, supports, and empowers teachers to live the ethic of “cura personalis”, care for the whole person, in their classrooms every day.  From the very first days of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have been providing students with holistic social and emotional support, rich learning opportunities, and safe learning environments that have allowed them to continue to learn, thrive, and determine their own future.

  • In Afghanistan, when faced with the closure of schools, teachers quickly adapted and started broadcasting English language lesson on radio to reach marginalised communities, with students calling and seeking clarifications via mobile phone.
  • In Chad, when schools were closed, teachers moved their instruction from the classroom to the community, donning personal protective equipment and visiting students and families in at their homes to teach them about the coronavirus, and how to prevent its spread.
  • In Malawi, when preparation for end of year exams was interrupted by the closure of schools, teachers quickly moved exam preparation sessions to the community radio broadcast station. Students heard lessons and were given exercises over the radio, dropped off their work at a designated drop box, and picked it up shortly after, with notes and corrections from their teachers.  Teachers put in extra hours learning the nuances of teaching via radio and adapting their style to ensure their students succeeded.
  • In Kenya, when JRS had to suspend its in-person teacher professional development course due to government restrictions on large gatherings, adaptations were made to begin the course online. Through a partnership with the Carey Institute for Global Good, teachers have begun their training with a course focused on Child Well-being and Protection. Accessing course materials through laptops and mobile devices, 69 teachers are completing activities and engaging in virtual and live discussions with each other and JRS facilitators in Kakuma, Kenya, and the US.
  • In Lebanon, teachers transitioned from in-person to online learning in mid-March, as soon as school closures were announced. Teachers developed a new curriculum tailored to the online tools they had – emphasizing the most important skills they would teach in person, as well as additional lessons about coping with the stresses brought on by COVID-19. With the new tools available, students were able to have closer one-on-one contact with their teachers, sending voice notes practicing their reading and getting individual feedback.  Teachers were also able to communicate more frequently with parents and caregivers through the mobile platforms, which helped further support children while they were at home.
  • In Thailand, in remote camps along the border with Myanmar, lack of internet meant that online learning was not an option when schools closed. Teachers quickly adapted, developing home-based learning kits for students, which allowed them to continue their studies. Teachers periodically visited students and families to check on their progress and provide support as needed, until classes could resume with social distancing policies in effect.

As these examples show, teachers are essential leaders in their communities, as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions brought on by it. This World Teachers’ Day, JRS honours the contributions of teachers everywhere, who have demonstrated creativity, courage, and care for their students in the midst of this global crisis.