Reduced teacher time on task is considered one of the greatest challenges toward inclusive and quality education.
Thus, it is crucial that the Government negotiates with teachers towards meeting them half with regard to their salaries and work conditions because, since the start of this term, many teachers hardly enter their classrooms. The direct losers of this go-slow strike action by teachers are the pupils who do not receive instruction.
It is imperative that in trying to improve learning outcomes, the Government and all education partners should seek out findings that will inform workable solutions and policies that help increase opportunities for children to learn and ultimately, improve their life and work opportunities.
In this direction, in November 2020, important new research on teacher absenteeism in sub-Saharan Africa was launched at a regional online workshop of national and international education stakeholders organized in Nairobi, Kenya.
The report which would be instructive to MBSSE offered insights into the drivers of primary school teacher absenteeism, a major obstacle in efforts to address the learning crisis in children of low- and middle-income countries around the world.
Produced by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, the report synthesizes findings from eight sub-Saharan countries with a focus on the many complex factors that affect teacher time on task across the region.
The study provides robust evidence on the challenges faced by teachers and to improve policies on teacher working conditions, accountability and motivation.
Teacher absenteeism has a lot to do with the finding that many of our children finish primary school unable to read and understand a simple text.
Teachers attending lessons and spending time on task is a prerequisite for learning. This clearly indicates that more attention should be paid to supporting teachers and improving policies for a more motivated and effective teaching workforce, one of the most important factors for addressing the learning crisis.
Thus, even though the Bio Government has invested heavily in its FQE program, yet teacher absenteeism is still prevalent.
There is the need to carefully study teacher absenteeism and provide critical insights into the factors that underpin the multiple forms of teacher absenteeism and time on task. What is crucially needed is strengthening education systems.
Effective and consistently applied accountability, training and support, career development and remuneration systems – remain critical to improving teachers’ attendance and time on task.
The persistent focus on the multiple factors affecting teacher attendance will help mobilize policymakers, citizens, donors, and other stakeholders to take the necessary steps to improve teacher working conditions, accountability, and motivation, and thereby improve learning outcomes.
Empirical evidence shows that teacher absenteeism is higher in rural areas than in urban/peri-urban areas and higher in public schools than in private schools.
‘Moonlighting’ teachers, who hold multiple jobs, are more likely to report being absent compared with teachers who receive income exclusively from the teaching profession, as are volunteer teachers compared with non-volunteer teachers.
In schools where school heads monitor the attendance of teachers, they spend more time in school and teaching.
Stronger parental and community engagement in teacher monitoring is also associated with improved teacher attendance;
Teachers who receive their salary on time and with relative ease report lower rates of absenteeism than teachers who face delays and difficulties in collecting their pay.
Main Policy Recommendations
Strengthen inter-sectoral collaboration to address factors beyond the education system, in particular health and infrastructure;
Ensure that head teachers are trained in management and leadership including monitoring and oversight, curriculum implementation and supervision;
Boost parental and community involvement to include a monitoring role and strengthening of their representation on school councils and management boards;
Remove obstacles to receiving pay including increased pay points in remote areas and establishing a Rota system to ensure schools continue to function at pay collection time.
Ensure that teacher training has a strong practical component and is not organized in a way that leaves students without a teacher or a substitute teacher.
Make distribution of teachers across schools more equitable including incentive strategies to make postings in rural and hardship areas more attractive.