By Manuella Fosso Yimga (Policy Intern)
Skills, independent of the domain of activities have become the global currency in the 21st century for upward social mobility all over the world. Almost everywhere the need for competence is required for professional growth. Due to the complexity of our environment and critical issues African countries are experiencing, the role of teachers in the educational system warrants a critical re-appraisal. One of the biggest challenges in the education system of Cameroon is the gap between available resources and its distribution within the various regions in the country. These resources include the available professional, well-trained and well-supported teachers and their distribution within the Cameroonian territory. Indeed there is a huge shortage of professional and well-supported teachers to achieve better quality education. The challenge of recruiting teachers does not lie just in the numbers, but in the provision of quality teachers. Far too many teachers are under-qualified, poorly paid and with very low social status.
While some regions especially the urban areas have a high proportion of professional teachers, rural regions on the other hand continue to face acute shortages. The Regional Delegate of Secondary Education for the Centre region highlighted the situation in an interview by indicating that of the approximately 8000 teachers in the Centre Region, almost half of them are based in the town of Yaoundé alone . This highlights how the shortage of qualified teachers disproportionately affects the rural areas. We therefore see a high demand for temporary teachers who for the most part are under qualified to perform their specified tasks.
The situation is very critical as many of these teachers are essentially students from high schools or local universities with huge financial needs, teaching subjects in which they have no professional training or in which they are not competent or qualified to teach.
When one considers the theme for the 2013 International Teachers Day “A Call for Teachers” in the context of Cameroon’s educational policy, it is evident that much remains to be done to ameliorate the situation. The unsustainability of the current education system is much more captioned when we look at the goals of education for sustainable development in general and the competences required for educators in education for sustainable development in particular. The fact that educators are not valued and motivated is a threat to sustainable peace and development.
Irina BOKOVA, UNESCO Director-General on the teacher’s day pointed out that: “Teachers’ professional knowledge and skills are the most important factor for quality education. This World Teachers’ Day, we call for teachers to receive stronger training upfront and continual professional development and support…” This is to say in other words that since teachers are the most powerful force for equity, access and quality education, a call for teachers means calling for quality education for all. Quality education offers hope and the promise of a better standard of living. There is no stronger foundation for lasting peace and sustainable development than a quality education provided by well-trained, valued, supported and motivated teachers. The call therefore is on the competences of teachers, their motivation and satisfaction in doing their job.
Although the Cameroonian government showed a strong will of integration of ESD in schools programs, much still to be done in respect to the full implementation of incentive education policies . This call is even important when we consider the report given by UNESCO as what concerns teacher’s shortage in the years to come in the Sub Sahara African zone:
Close to one third (1/3) of the countries suffering from teacher shortages are situated in Sub Sahara Africa and the need to recruit more teachers will intensify due to the growth in the number of school-age children. Moreover, by 2030, 2.1 million teaching positions will have to be created and above all 2.6 million teachers leaving the profession will need to be replaced.
Subsequently, the question that one may be asking is: what recommendations can be suggested as regards to ESD achievements for teacher’s well-being and fulfillment in Cameroon?
The pace of social change and the heightened expectations of schools in Cameroon have broadened and deepened teachers’ roles. The teaching profession in Cameroon needs to be competitive with other occupations. So, attracting talented and motivated people in education need to be emphasized because the government is experiencing a qualitative shortage of teachers. This trend reflects the composition of the teacher workforce in terms of academic background, gender, knowledge and skills. Likewise, the focus has also to be on aging of the teaching workforce, which compounds recruitment concerns.
Empowering educators must be central to any professional development initiative. Effective educational transformation relies on teacher’s rate of motivation to bring about change, as well as their capability of being supported in doing so. Providing training in ESD for those in management and leadership positions in educational institutions is a necessity. Leadership and management are key determinants of success in educational transformation at the institutional level. Models of leadership that promote the enhancement of competences thus, should be developed and supported.
Continuing professional development for educators underpinned by the competences should be provided. Practicing educators also need an opportunity to develop their competences if the system is to be transformed, through critically reflective practice. Particular attention should be paid to developing the competences among educators who work in higher education. Institutions of higher education play a crucial role in preparing future leaders and specialists in a variety of fields, including education. While respecting the contribution of academic freedom to knowledge generation, educators at this level should consider and seek to develop the competences.
Partnerships and networks should be established and supported as an important strategy for developing and practicing skills. This could be at the local, national, regional and international level. Collaboration among the many actors involved in education across the world will help to ensure that the system embraces ESD that requires the distribution of power across institutions in order to facilitate educational change.
A whole-institution or participative management approach should be adopted for the continuing professional development of educators in their workplace. Educators will best develop the competences when the culture and management of the entire organization is supportive of sustainable development. This approach also applies to organizations such as businesses and NGOs where learning also takes place.
In conclusion, there is agreement that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is about including key sustainable development issues into the teaching and learning process (climate change, disaster risk reduction, poverty reduction etc.) It requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate, empower learners to change their behavior and take action for sustainable development. ESD consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way. In such doing, it promotes quality education and deeply reorients teacher’s curricula. The teacher’s day, which was celebrated The 5th of October, aims to have the right person at the place with the right policy incentive or sustainable policies. For teachers in Cameroon to attain this call for ESD there must be synergies between national and international processes.