ISOPIX / Gregg Brekke  / Zuma Press | Teaching English to Tigrayan refugees in the Tuneidba Camp in Sudan
ISOPIX / Gregg Brekke / Zuma Press | Teaching English to Tigrayan refugees in the Tuneidba Camp in Sudan

Refugee teachers are key to overcoming the teacher shortage and transforming education

published 26 July 2022 updated 11 August 2022

Refugee teachers play a crucial role in their communities. However, oftentimes they do not receive the support they need and face unsurmountable barriers to continuing their career in their host country.

On June 30th, 2022, at the Transforming Education Pre-Summit hosted by UNESCO in Paris, INEE, UNHCR and Education International co-convened a side event focused on the status of refugee teachers and highlighting their importance in current global efforts to transform education.

“We need bold commitments to ensure that teachers in refugee and crisis settings are adequately remunerated and provided with appropriate working conditions that enable them to deliver quality education to their students.”

David Edwards | Education International General Secretary

Titled “Transforming our understanding of refugee teachers and teaching in contexts of forced displacement”, the side event brought together a panel of refugee teachers, refugee youth, and government, NGO, and United Nations representatives to discuss three challenges. Their responses, along with contributions from the audience, have been summarised in a Meeting Outcomes and Recommendations memo.

Recommendations from the side event, along with recommendations from other teacher-focused side meetings, will inform the final discussion paper for Action Track 3: Teachers, Teaching and the Teaching Profession, which will frame priorities and guide debates at the Transforming Education Summit in New York.

“The fate of teachers in crisis-affected contexts deserves greater attention from the international education community. If we fail to support teachers in these extreme situations, we fail the most vulnerable students. The Transforming Education Summit is a unique opportunity to act. We need bold commitments to ensure that teachers in refugee and crisis settings are adequately remunerated and provided with appropriate working conditions that enable them to deliver quality education to their students. Education International and our members around the world have been working for years to promote the rights of refugee teachers and students and we remain fully committed to our colleagues and students who are facing the worst of circumstances,” stated David Edwards, Education International General Secretary.

Building welcoming education communities around the world

Education International advocates for the rights of refugees and migrants on every continent and works with its member organisations to ensure that every child, every student, every teacher who flees their home finds a welcoming education community.

For instance, in Germany and Sweden, at the height of the Syrian crisis, education unions advocated for the rights of refugee teachers and assisted Syrian teachers in building community connections and continuing their teaching career. In Sweden, EI member organisation Lärarförbundet was directly involved in the development of a fast-track for refugee teachers aiming to give participants a coherent individual path to a Swedish teaching certificate. In Germany, the Saxony branch of the education union GEW has been working with a network of refugee teachers to develop a model of integrating refugee teachers in the national education system in order to help counter the teacher shortage and support refugee students.

More recently, education unions across Europe have played an important part in responding to the Ukrainian crisis. Unions from Ukraine and host countries have connected, creating key networks for sharing information and resources. Unions have also been active fundraisers. Education International has launched a solidarity fund where affiliates have made donations that are used to provide stipends to Ukrainian teachers through local unions.

In neighboring countries receiving large numbers of refugees, education unions have mobilised to support displaced Ukrainian teachers. In Poland, the union ZNP hired a Ukrainian staff member dedicated to communicating with refugees and information has been made available to Ukrainian educators about access to the labor market. In Moldova, the Education Trade Union Chisinau Branch has closely collaborated with the municipality on a joint mechanism to identify refugee teachers’ qualifications and available Russian-speaking teaching and non-teaching vacancies, which has facilitated the employment of Ukrainian educators.

In Africa, through the BRICE/Education for Life project, Education International is working with its affiliate, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU), and international partners to improve the conditions of teachers and students in South Sudan and Uganda. UNATU supports teachers in refugee areas and is working to ensure that all teachers, including those in refugee camps, are recruited, deployed, and paid under the same terms and conditions. Among many other aspects of the project, UNATU also works with refugee teachers directly, providing trainings on the Teachers’ Professional Code.

Global movement to transform education

The Transforming Education Pre-Summit brought together education ministers and vice-ministers from 154 countries and nearly 2,000 participants. It aimed to energise global action on education in the lead-up to the Transforming Education Summit, which will take place on September 19 in New York City.

Convened by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, the Transforming Education Summit will bring together heads of state from around the world in order to mobilise political ambition, actions, solutions, and solidarity to accelerate progress on Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education for all.

Education International will be the voice of teachers at the Transforming Education Summit. Education unions are actively advocating at national and international levels for the Summit to have concrete, tangible outcomes that advance teachers’ status and rights, a commitment to investing in public education, and the fulfilment of the right to education for all. Click here to find out more and get involved.