How teachers are leading efforts to ensure learning never stops during COVID-19 education disruption

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As schools and other educational centres were closed down around the world, the education of nearly 1.6 billion learners, representing over 90% of the world's total enrolled student population, was, and continues to be, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This crisis has created an unprecedented context that has brought to the fore teacher leadership, creativity and innovation. Globally, in contexts ranging from places where teachers and learners have no computers, or internet access, to others where online learning took a great leap forward, teachers have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to ensure that learning never stops.

Some teachers travelled for hours each day to establish small learning groups around a laptop, others walked door to door to distribute thousands of much-needed school meals during the lockdown, yet others delivered their classes from the back of a truck!

In the majority of cases, teachers were forced to act without much warning and with little time to prepare. Curriculums were modified or condensed, lesson plans adapted, working methods turned on their heads. But, whether via the internet, mobile phone, television, radio broadcast or the mail, teachers continued to provide an education to their students.

In many low-income countries, where there is poor or no connectivity to the internet or mobile networks (globally about 50% and 43% of households, respectively, do not have a computer or access to the Internet), teachers prepared take-home packages for their students.

To support their work, teachers have also formed communities of practice and support groups through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

COVID-19 has therefore significantly added to the workload of teachers who, at the best of times, face a number of challenges. In response to the crisis, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 released a "Call for Action on Teachers" which, among other things, advocates for teacher participation in short, medium-, and long-term planning and policymaking as we move forward.

The leadership and ingenuity teachers have shown during the COVID-19 crisis are no surprise. They have shown these time and time again. This is why, as it has done every year since 1994, UNESCO will celebrate their work on 5 October, with World Teachers' Day, on the anniversary of the signature of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

The day provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, to take stock of achievements, to raise awareness of the challenges facing teachers, and to highlight their role in the achievement of the global education targets. This year, it will also be an opportunity to address the role of teachers in education systems, and societies in general, as we move past the COVID-19 crisis and into what inevitably will be new and as yet largely unchartered territory.