On World Teachers’ Day, Jesuit Refugee Service Highlights Teachers’ Role amid COVID-19

A Poster for World Teachers’ Day 2020.
Credit: UNESCO

On the annual World Teachers’ Day marked October 5, the leadership of the international refugee organization of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has highlighted the role the teachers engaged in the organization’s programs have been playing globally including in Africa amid COVID-19.

“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,” the leadership of JRS says in a report published Monday, October 5.

In the landlocked country of Chad where schools have been closed since March 19 due to COVID-19, “teachers moved their instruction from the classroom to the community, donning personal protective equipment,” the leadership of the 40-year-old agency says.

The teachers have also been able to visit students and families in their homes to teach them about COVID-19, including how to prevent its spread, officials of the agency, which runs seven refugee camps in the North-Central African nation add in the report obtained by ACI Africa.

In Malawi where COVID-19 struck as students were preparing for end of year exams, JRS teachers “quickly moved exam preparation sessions to the community radio broadcast station,” the agency’s officials have reported.

“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,” JRS officials indicate in the October 5 report.

They add, “Teachers put in extra hours learning the nuances of teaching via radio and adapting their style to ensure their students succeeded.”

In Kenya, JRS officials had to suspend their in-person teacher professional development course due to government restrictions on large gatherings amid COVID-19. This made the agency’s staff make adaptations to begin the course online.

In the October 5 report, JRS leadership says already 69 teachers in the East African nation have begun their training on Child Well-being and Protection course, an achievement realized through a partnership with the Carey Institute for Global Good.

According to JRS officials, the partnership has enabled the teachers to access learning materials online using laptops and mobile devices and also engage in virtual discussions with each other as well as with JRS facilitators at the Kenya-based Kakuma refugee camp and in the US. 

“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,” JRS leadership says.

The leadership adds, “This World Teachers’ Day, JRS honors the contributions of teachers everywhere, who have demonstrated creativity, courage, and care for their students in the midst of this global crisis.”

Founded in November 1980 by Jesuit Fr. Andrew Arrupe, JRS has the mission “to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn, and determine their own future.”

Held annually on 5 October since 1994, World Teachers’ Day provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, take stock of achievements, and draw attention to the voices of teachers who are at the heart of efforts to attain the global education target of leaving no one behind.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration was marked under the theme “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.”

UNESCO acknowledged that “now more than ever, we must work with teachers to protect the right to education and guide it into the unfolding landscape brought about by the pandemic.”


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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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