Education International puts teachers in the spotlight at the Global Refugee Forum

published 12 December 2023 updated 15 December 2023

The Global Refugee Forum is taking place in Geneva from 13 to 15 December. Education International (EI) is spearheading global efforts to support the rights of teachers in contexts of forced displacement and crises.

Teachers are the cornerstone of quality inclusive education - the right to education means the right to a qualified and well supported teacher. Teachers play a pivotal role in ensuring the right to education—a right that persists across borders, for refugee children and youth. Despite their essential work and difficult circumstances, teachers working in contexts affected by displacement and crisis are all but invisible in global refugee and education policies, strategies, and frameworks. 

In order to correct this critical gap, Education International has been working to highlight the plight of teachers in refugee and crisis settings at the Global Refugee Forum. In the lead up to the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) 2023, thematic task teams have been established within the GRF Education Alliance which brings together a range of stakeholders working together to operationalise the education-related provisions of the Global Compact on Refugees. Education International leads the GRF Education Alliance Task Team on Teachers.

Rallying support for teachers and teaching in situations of forced displacement

The GRF Task Team on Teachers developed a guidance for States and other pledging entities to effectively address the needs of teachers working in contexts of displacement and crisis. The guidance includes 10 key actions that stakeholders should consider to include in their pledges at the Global Refugee Forum.

The guidance is the basis of the multistakeholder pledge “Supporting Teachers and Teaching in Forced Displacement Situations” that the GRF Task Team on Teachers collectively developed and submitted at the Global Refugee Forum, with the aim to mobilise concrete support for teachers and teaching over the next period.

Education International also submitted an individual pledge committing to rally support for an international financing mechanism to provide ‘bridge funding’ for teacher salaries when crises occur, to support education union engagement in policy and social dialogue around the inclusion of refugees in national education systems, and to support peer-learning among member organisations in countries facing a large influx of refugees.

From pledges to action

On December 12, at the Global Refugee Forum - Education Campus, the GRF Task Team on Teachers convened a conversation about the urgent need to prioritise teachers in education responses in refugee and crisis settings. Moderated by EI’s Sonia Grigt, the event featured contributions from Chris Henderson (Geneva Graduate Institute and NORRAG), Fatou Niang (UNESCO, International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030), Marianna Knirsch (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), Heather Saunders (Global Partnership for Education), Itaf Alawawdeh (Save the Children Jordan), and Anfal Saqib (Education Cannot Wait).

The event kicked off with the testimony of Stella Oryang Aloyo, a South-Sudanese refugee teacher working in the Palabek Refugee Settlement in the Lamwo district of Uganda. Aloyo highlighted the dire reality of teachers in refugee contexts and their commitment to their students and called on the international community to do their part and support teachers, just as teachers are doing their part to support students.

Echoing Aloyo’s testimony, panelists stressed the critical challenges teachers in situations of forced displacement are facing, including difficulty in having their qualifications recognised across borders, low salaries that are delayed for long periods of time, poor working conditions, a very high teacher to pupil ratio, and a lack of continuous professional development opportunities to name just a few. All these factors contribute to the high attrition rate among teachers in contexts of forced displacement and fuel the teacher shortage.

Panelists discussed the actions needed to improve the situation of teachers in emergency contexts, including increased funding for teachers, their inclusion in national education systems in host countries, their participation in social and policy dialogue that can inform government responses, the recognition of their qualifications and experience across borders and more.

While it is encouraging to see the plight of teachers in situations of forced displacement gaining increased attention at the international level, pledges are not enough. Education International will continue to push for effective action to support teachers on the ground doing their utmost to keep hope alive for their students.