Despite the various challenges they face, teachers are showing an incredible dedication to their profession, writes Leandro Salazar-Lievano, our education expert deployed to UNHCR Mali.
Teaching has always played an important part in my personal and professional life. From my first teacher back in pre-primary to my adult years in university, and my own experience as a language teacher in Colombia and France; it has shaped the way I think and perceive this world.
Through teaching, I learned about myself and to be mindful of the other by caring about people’s learning and development process. Through teaching, I discovered the important role education plays in every society, made the education sector my battlefield and people’s learning my life goal.
Preventing conflict and trauma through education
At UNHCR Mali, we place a special focus on teachers’ capacity development and strengthening in our education interventions in conflict affected zones. We understand how important it is for communities at large to have well equipped, motivated, committed, inspiring female and male teachers as role models for the current and future generations.
For displaced communities in hosting regions, it means an opportunity for children to find safety and protection as we strengthen teachers’ capacity to address stress and trauma through mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in safe, friendly and inclusive learning environments.
For the country, it means the promotion and preservation of a peaceful nation, in which youth are essential actors contributing to peacebuilding processes.
Teacher training in Mali
Our most recent teachers’ training session took place in Mali’s Gao region during the week the international day of the teacher is commemorated.
36 female and male teachers and school principals participated in an “Education Cannot Wait” and Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs funded a six-day training on Covid-19 prevention in schools. MHPSS and Education in Emergencies (EiE), facilitated jointly by the regional education authority and UNHCR Mali’s education unit.
Every teacher had a story and a good practice to share, and the sessions became the right place to exchange about challenges and ways forward. I was capable to witness the commitment of each of them in giving their best to maintaining children at school safe and learning, and to contribute to maintaining peace in their communities.
I love what I do
As Maria, a young teacher, explained: “what motivates me most in my profession is the love for children. I love what I do”.
Like her, teachers in Mali showcase an intrinsic motivation towards the profession despite the various challenges they face, mostly in terms of security, threats, attacks against them, and limited resources. Other teachers, like Issa, manifest that their motivation lies in contributing to the development of the future generations and highlights the role everyone plays as models in a society.
They were also aware of their key contribution in reducing school dropout rates among children, and the impact of being out of school has on children’s safety, protection and future. Once children drop out, they become easy targets for early marriage and pregnancy, sexual exploitation and abuse, recruitment into armed groups, child labour and other protection risks that hinder the fulfillment of their life goals.
Through an education, I was able and continue to fulfill my own life goals. Refugee, internally displaced and host community children deserve the same fate, and teachers in Mali are doing all it takes to make that become a reality for hundreds of thousands of children across the country.
To all of them, my sincere admiration and unconditional support.