Give teachers well-structured support system

Author, Filbert Idha. PHOTO/COURTESY  

What you need to know:

  • Many schools hardly get two visits termly by CCTs...

In mid-September , the Ministry of Education started Zoom training to support school reopening. This training was  meant for school teachers, tutors and lecturers in Teacher Training Colleges (TCCs) to position their role in the current context as ‘pedagogical leaders’. 

The training content covered teacher wellbeing, Covid-19, instructional approaches and building a supportive learning environment. The training will roll out through the teacher colleges.

Whereas the training is well-intentioned and with relevant content, without a well-organised system in place, it will face structural problems and practices in teacher support that may instead stress out teachers in light of the latest evidence on the real impact of Covid-19 on teachers. 

In the June/July 2021 Volume of the Journal of Educational Researcher2, a study by Tim Pressley points out that anxiety over new instructional or teaching techniques, lack of support by school administrators, Covid-19 and uncertainty on what to communicate to parents caused teacher burnout. 

Another study by Petrakova et al released in December 2020 in the Journal of Educational Studies Moscow echoes the same issues plus further emphasizes the increase in teacher workload as a major stressor thanks to the new instructional strategies - balancing home assignments with school work. 

From my years of experience as a teacher, I observe that the rollout plan for the training by the Ministry of Education through teacher training colleges and Coordinating Centre Tutors (CCTs) leaves a lot to imagination on what extra support teacher colleges/CCTs will receive given the rare sight of CCTs in schools.

Many schools hardly get two visits termly by CCTs due to the overwhelming number of schools and teachers they support. This may reduce the training to mere content delivery with limited support to teachers who are the ‘pedagogical leaders’.

The rarity of CCTs in schools and the supervisory burden on the head teachers it creates, implies that the teachers may not receive the needed support to adapt to hybrid learning strategies to manage lost learning and special learning needs and curriculum implementation. 

Promote synergistic options, like peer learning among teachers and head teachers, to cover this gap by tapping into the resources available in local education personnel. 

Teacher wellbeing was seldom the focus of CCT schools support supervisions pre-Covid-19, partly due to the limits of current tools in use. Their support is skewed more towards instructional and professional support than the broader wellbeing issues. So, orient the CCTs well (beyond training on Zoom) and support them with revised tools that can prioritise teacher wellbeing issues. 

The government needs to go beyond teacher vaccination campaigns to arrange school mental health days for deeper socio-emotional support and possibly set up toll-free socio-emotional support lines for individual support. The reporting and referral mechanism must be tailored to go beyond Covid-19 protocol but also local socio-emotional support resources teachers can use.

With teachers expected to support new instructional strategies (including catch-up and remedial learning) on new school routines, teachers deserve a well-structured support system.

It may be the most important well-being support they need. This is the moment to increase the number of CCTs, equip them better to support schools and support head teachers to supervise their teachers better.  

The technocrats in education and health ministries must reflect on how the new routine for teachers, when schools reopen, impacts the life of this one teacher who is a wife or a husband, a student in an in-service teacher training and needs time off school. 

The writer is a Senior Programme Officer at Finn Church Aid, Uganda Programme