The first of a three-part webinar series spotlighting African educators’ opportunities and challenges offered illuminating insights. Organized by UNESCO’s Institute for International Capacity Building for Africa (IICBA) and co-hosted by the KIX Africa 19 Hub and UNESCO’s Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA), the webinar delved into systemic approaches for bolstering mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for teachers across the continent.
The event, titled "Mental Health: The Best Investment for Teachers in Africa?", attracted over 300 virtual participants on August 22nd, 2023 from across the African continent. Speakers and panelists shared experiences from Eswatini, Ethiopia, and Uganda, offering multifaceted perspectives. Participants encompassed teachers, educators, Ministry of Education officials, teacher union representatives, university faculty, and voices from non-governmental and multilateral entities.
Dr. Christian Addai-Poku, Secretary General at the Africa Federation of Teaching Regulatory Authority (AFTRA), provided a keynote address highlighting policy development as a starting point for integrating MHPSS. Collaborative efforts with stakeholders, including teacher unions, were emphasized for effective policy formulation.
The webinar also recognized the adversities faced by teachers, including financial strains (exemplified by Uganda), insufficient resources, and the absence of control over their deployment. Conflicts, violence, and resulting destruction to schools and disruption to infrastructure (as witnessed in Ethiopia and Eswatini) compounded the challenges faced by teachers, echoing a participant's sentiment from the webinar: "Teachers can help learners only if they are in a safe mental space themselves." The added burden of health crises such as HIV/AIDS and the enduring impact of COVID-19 further compounded the struggles of teachers in these countries.
Participants identified that research remains an indispensable tool for deeper understanding. Under the “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future” project, UNESCO IICBA and UNESCO ROSA have proactively explored these aspects, proposing interventions like integrating mental health into teacher training and involving educators in vital conversations according to presenters. Summarizing key takeaways, Ms. Maryann Dreas-Shaikha, KIX Africa 19 Hub Team Leader, invoked IICBA's motto, "Empowering teachers for all learners to thrive," while underscoring the pivotal role of teacher professional development within GPEKIX Africa 19 Hub's agenda. Addressing teachers' fundamental needs within their professional growth, she affirmed, remains instrumental in elevating both educators and the quality of education.