Laila El Baghazaou, a Moroccan high school teacher at Charif Elidrissi High School Benslimane, has won the African Union’s Continental Best Teacher Award.
Together with seven other outstanding teachers from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, and South Africa, she will be recognized at an event for World Teachers’ Day (on October 5) organized by the African Union Commission and the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (UNESCO IICBA).
The Best Teacher Awards are a great way to recognize outstanding teachers. The awards can raise the appreciation for teachers while demonstrating that hard work and innovation can make a difference for learners.
The African Union Commission instituted the Continental Best Teacher Award in 2019.
As argued recently in an IICBA series entitled “West Africa – Investing in Teachers and School Leaders: Professional Standards, Teacher Education, and Working Conditions”, teacher awards are important to celebrate the unique contribution that teachers make to their students, their communities, and societies.
In a recent interview with IICBA, Ms. El Baghazaou was asked if, looking back, there would be something she would have done differently in her career as a teacher. She answered: “I used to give much importance to examinations. Right now, I focus on the process of learning and not on grades. Sometimes, I use projects as a way of assessment instead of a written exam to motivate my students. This is the one thing that I could have done differently in the past.”
Teaching is a demanding job. It is also one of the most important professions for societies’ development.
Unfortunately, global data confirms that, in numerous countries, teaching is no longer an attractive profession for the younger generations and for many of the teachers currently employed.
Despite having embraced their vocation with passion, teachers often leave the profession as a result of deteriorating working conditions and the increasing demands placed on them by the school administration, families, and learners themselves.
Another reason for leaving the profession concerns a lack of recognition and respect, as confirmed, in many countries, by the remuneration offered for their expertise. Investing in education is one of the best investments that countries can make.
For investments in education to bear fruit, we need good teachers. This year, the theme for World Teachers’ Day is “The teachers we need for the education we want: The global imperative to reverse the teacher shortage”
Estimates suggest that African nations, in particular, will need to recruit millions of
teachers to respond to rising educational attainment and population growth, not to speak of the need to achieve targets set forth in the Sustainable Development Goals.
This will not be easy in a context where teaching may not be seen as an attractive profession and many teachers already lack the qualifications they need.
What can be done to reduce teacher shortages and ensure that teachers can excel? There is no panacea, but priorities should include improving teachers’ working conditions, ensuring quality pre-service education, providing continuous professional development, and establishing clear career paths and related competencies.
As noted in IICBA’s study on investing in teachers in West Africa, most countries still have a long way to go.
Morocco has achieved many but not all objectives, and authorities have placed teaching quality as one of the priorities of the new Roadmap. In the same vein, Mauritania has recently adopted a new Teaching Policy, supported by UNESCO through an EU-funded initiative in the Sahel region, showing that quality teachers are high on the agenda.
Much remains to be done, as too many children still do not learn enough in school.
Asked about advice she could share with other teachers, Laila El Baghazaou responded: “The advice that I could give to teachers is that determination is the key to success. Teachers need to be determined if they start any project. When I begin any project, I just can’t stop. It is true that we struggle sometimes, but we go forward to the end. I also advise teachers to fall in love with their ideas and dreams. No one will believe in your project if you don’t believe in it yourself. Give value to your materials and your ideas, be determined, and love what you are doing.”
Eric Falt is Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for the Maghreb region, based in Rabat. Quentin Wodon is Director of the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (UNESCO IICBA) based in Addis Ababa.
Eric Falt and Quentin Wodon exclusively contributed this report to MoroccoLatestNews.