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Teacher leadership is key in times of crises

By Wilson Sossion | October 5th 2020

It is no exaggeration to say that the world is at a crossroads and, 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 Covid-19 pandemic.

The issue of teacher leadership in relation to crisis response is not just timely but also critical in terms of the contribution teachers and their unions have made to encourage students/pupils to remain educationally active during this pandemic, which led to closure of schools.

Covid-19 has already constrained Kenya’s education system in various ways, and thus teachers will be compelled to revise how they teach and perform their duties.

While the topic of leadership has been somewhat neglected among the multitude of issues facing the teaching profession in the push towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG – 4) and Education 2030 goals, the issue of teacher leadership in relation to crisis response is not just timely, but critical considering the assistance teachers have given learners during the period schools have been closed, and the support they continue to give learners and their parents in readiness for reopening of schools.

As we mark the International Teachers’ Day today, focus will be on how to address the role of teachers in building resilience and shaping the future of education and the teaching profession. The theme of this year’s World Teachers’ Day, 'Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future', also considers the role of tutors in building resilience and shaping the future of education and the teaching profession.

The Covid-19 crisis has created a unique opportunity for teacher leadership, creativity and innovation to be demonstrated. That is what we expect of teachers when schools reopen. Teachers are working individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students and pupils to ensure that learning continues.

Teachers will be looked upon to modify or condense the curriculum and adapt lesson plans to carry on with teaching by all means. At some stage, teachers will be called upon to prepare take-home packages for their students and pupils so as to effectively and adequately cover the syllabi in the revised school calendar ahead of national or end-year examinations.

Epidemic and pandemic situations such as Covid-19, civil conflicts, climate change and other emergency situations impact on teachers' effectiveness and motivation.

Overall, the early 21st Century has not been an easy time for teachers. There has been a decline in the status of the teaching profession globally and respect for teachers. Worldwide, there is growing concern about the competence and qualification levels of teachers to the extent that families no longer systematically support teachers’ authority or the concept of loco parentis.

If the challenges facing teachers are not properly addressed in the wake of Covid-19, policymakers might miss a golden opportunity to develop a new cadre of teachers with a leadership mindset.

Teacher leadership is essential for inclusive and quality education and allows for broad interpretation and greater role of teachers beyond their traditional ones. It expands teachers’ central role as leaders to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

As the global community marks International Teachers’ Day, stakeholders should reflect on the Covid-19 crisis to examine the future of the profession, considering not just emergency preparedness, but also the role of teacher leadership in relation to the changing climate of education.

Principally, for teachers to be change agents and team leaders during whatever crises and to reimagine the future, their employer, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), should work closely with teacher unions to address teachers’ grievances with a view to achieving sustainable industrial peace.

Teachers’ policies and programmes should be developed collaboratively and progressively by TSC and the unions. TSC, at all times, should respect and operate within the TSC Act, Code of Regulations for Teachers, Labour Relations Act and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and within any other lawful guidelines.

Situations such as running two parallel payrolls in the public teaching service, which is contrary to established law and international norms that might lead to poisoning the existing harmonious relationship between TSC and unions must be avoided.

Teacher upgrading and promotion should be processed within the ambit of the Code of Regulations for Teachers, and as agreed in the CBA and any other laws. Moreover, the CBA should be interpreted and applied correctly to avoid industrial mistrust and disharmony. This will make the teaching profession more attractive and secure.

Mr Sossion is a nominated Member of Parliament and Secretary-General of Knut

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