AFTRA’s efforts towards raising professional teacher standards in Africa
The Africa Forum of Teaching Regulatory Authorities (AFTRA) is an association of the national statutory agencies regulating teaching in the various African countries. Other members of the association are teacher education institutions, teacher unions, international development partners and civil society organisations. AFTRA is also the Africa Regional Branch of the International (World) Forum of Teaching Regulatory Authorities, IFTRA (www.iftra.org), with Headquarters at the Ontario College of Teachers, Canada.
In the course of its existence in the last six years, AFTRA has sought to provide impetus to all African countries to raise teacher standards and buy into existing global networks that will enhance teacher status, professionalism and mobility. In particular, AFTRA has sought to create protocols for international mobility of teachers, develop teacher qualification framework for Africa and facilitate co-operation among member nations for the benefit of the education systems of the various countries.
A number of policies and programmes have emerged from the above aims of AFTRA. Prominent among them is the institutionalisation to two key annual events held June every year hosted in rotation by countries:
(i) AFTRA International Teaching and Learning in Africa Conference – The Conference provides opportunities for exchange of best practices between AFTRA (the regulators of the teaching profession in Africa) and members of the global community particularly the academia, Information and Communication Technology experts, employers of teachers, teachers unions, governments, international development partners, non-governmental organisations, and the general public.
(ii) AFTRA Roundtable – This serves as the AFTRA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), drawing together Ministers of Education and top education policy makers and implementers from various African countries, together with their Teaching Councils, Teaching Service Commissions, Education Service Commissions, national union of teachers, international development partners and civil society organisations to carry our peer review of the state of the teaching profession each year in the continent
Decisions and communiqués that emanate from these two key events have made monumental changes in the psyche of both the teachers themselves, governments and general stakeholders of the teaching profession. These events have awakened the continent to the realities about the place of teachers and the teaching profession globally and the role that teachers and qualitative education must play in building the African continent of the future. The messages of AFTRA have been integrated in the proceedings of a number of international organisations of which it is a member; among them are the Education Partners of the African Union and the United Nations Task Force on Teachers for Education for All. Other international organisations collaborating with AFTRA are Education International and UNESCO among others.
AFTRA Policy Thrusts include:
i. The adoption and domestication of the Commonwealth Teacher Recruitment Protocol, established in 1994 by the Commonwealth Ministers of Education. Like other international organisations such as the African Union, Organisation of American States, UNESCO, International Labour Organisation, Education International, etc which had earlier endorsed the Protocol, AFTRA believes that the terms of the document present the best ever lucid and balanced representation of the interests of migrating professional teachers and their host countries. AFTRA therefore has worked out a domestication of the Protocol and is implementing its principles as a guide in all of its dealings with international teachers.
ii. Requirement of Letter of Professional Standing from country of origin – AFTRA members are committed to collaborate in assessing, registering and licensing teachers who migrate. In this context, the host country’s Teaching Council commits to liaising with the Teaching Council in the teacher’s country of origin to obtain appropriate and adequate background information about the teacher. Such information, expressed in form of Letter of Professional Standing, is a credential or attestation from the country of origin regarding the teacher’s professional education and clearance of any professional or criminal conduct, so that the host country can easily assess the quality and conduct of the teacher for professional registration. Teachers who have no professional registration in their country of origin will, therefore, “stand alone” in all the processes required to convince the host country of the quality of teacher education and professional conduct. This development has a profound impact on the experiences of migrating teachers because teachers who have professional registration and recognition in their country of origin surely get ready welcome and easy processing of professional registration documents in their new countries whereas those without such professional registration and recognition in their country of origin will allow the Teaching Councils of host country several months and possibly years to carry out background checks and authentication of their credentials before being registered and licensed.
iii. Teacher Qualification Framework – The effective implementation of the Commonwealth Teacher Recruitment Protocol and the mutual recognition of teaching qualifications expressed by the Letter of Professional Standing depends critically on the existence of a Teacher Qualification Framework. There can be no basis of comparison or equal treatment of teachers except if there is a framework that stipuates what constitutes teacher professionalism and professional standards. For this reason, the development of a Teacher Qualification Framework has been part of AFTRA’s cardinal drives. Since 2013 therefore, AFTRA has worked with the UNESCO Regional Directorate in Dakar, Senegal, and with the strong support of the African Union and the UN Task Force on Teachers For All (which has headquarters at UNESCO, Paris, France) to development a Teacher Qualification Framework for Africa. The work and processes are however, complex. Therefore, so far, UNESSCO working with AFTRA and other stakeholders have been able to make advancement in the development of a Teacher Qualification Framework for West Africa. It is expected that success in developing a Teacher Qualification Framework for West Africa will be a springboard to launch a continental African Teacher Qualification Framework in the long run.
iv. The establishment of Teaching Councils as an imperative – Arising from the immense work going on in AFTRA and the need for the teachers and the teaching profession of each country to be effectively regulated and involved in AFTRA matters, AFTRA has unequivocally called for the establishment of Teaching Councils in every African country. The Councils must however be in accord with the history and national laws of the respective countries. In other words, AFTRA is not in any stead to dictate to countries about the nature of their Teaching Councils. However, it is expected that countries will leverage on the abundance of international best practices and growing number of Teaching Councils in Africa and around the world while deciding on the nature of the Teaching Council of their choice. In Africa, the Teaching Councils in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, etc and outside Africa, the Teaching Councils in Ontario Canada, Ireland, Australia, etc readily provide a variety of models. It is equally stressed that matters affecting teachers are best handled by the collective action of stakeholders. For this reason, the membership or governors of any Teaching Council should essentially include all shades of opinions in the profession – Government; professional teachers through their unions; teacher educators through their universities, faculties, colleges and schools of education; ministries of education; etc. This is also the reason why membership of AFTRA is not limited to only Teaching Councils but encompasses all critical stakeholders in the teaching profession. Therefore, even the establishment of a Teaching Council by a country does not exclude other national stakeholder organisations in the country from AFTRA membership. Indeed, the best AFTRA membership for any country still remains that led by the Minister of Education with a team that comprises the Teaching Council and other stakeholders.
In the years ahead, AFTRA will continue its synergy with the United Nations bodies, the African Union and other international development partners to push forward the best possible post-2015 teacher policies. It will require the support of the Ministers of Education and active participation of every African country in AFTRA in order to record the targets set for the teaching profession in Africa. Education is the gateway to development and teachers hold the key to the gateway. Therefore, global or continental development agenda that leave out the best interest of teachers are bound for a setback. It is for this reason that continental and global policy-making for the teaching profession should consider, support and work with the aims of AFTRA.
In conclusion, it is important to call on the Heads of Governments of African States and their Ministers of Education to, as a matter of urgency –
• See that their countries pass laws that recognize teaching as a profession;
• Take steps to set up their respective Teaching Councils which shall be specified in the law recognizing teaching as a profession;
• Strengthen the Teaching Councils (where they already exist) in terms of funding and political will to implement the teacher professional policies and programmes put forward by the Councils;
• Use the Teaching Councils as key driver for the professionalization of teaching and internationalization of teaching in Africa;
• Ensure that the Teaching Councils, Ministries of Education and relevant teacher related agencies are members of AFTRA;
• Give unwavering and high-level support to the activities and programmes of AFTRA and particularly ensure that their countries are adequately represented each year at AFTRA key events such as the International Teaching and Learning in Africa Conference and Roundtable that hold June of every year; and
• Use AFTRA as focal organ and implementer of important international protocols relating to teacher mobility, development of data on teacher migration, development of Africa Teacher Qualification Framework, exchange of best practices and the pursuit of other post-2015 teacher policies of the African Union.