World Teachers’ Day 2020: a celebration of millions of inspiring educators in 20 quotes and facts

World Teacher Day 2020 Main
A teacher at Tobongisa Primary School in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, during a Covid-19 awareness activity (UNICEF / Des)

Teachers and learning

We pay tribute to the amazing people who are overcoming challenges including the pandemic to ensure the next generation fulfil their potential.

Teachers on the Greek island of Lesvos sprang into action after the Moria refugee camp was destroyed by fire, leaving thousands of children homeless. 

Within days of the devastation last month, staff from the Taput learning centre – supported by Theirworld and the Dutch Postcode Lottery – set up play centres in a new temporary camp to get the children learning and laughing again.

But that’s typical of teachers around the world. This has been a tough year for them. In almost every country, their classrooms were shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic and they had to adjust quickly to teaching from home.

Many have faced the challenge of reaching children who don’t have access to computers or internet connectivity. Then, as schools begin to reopen, they have been at the frontline of ensuring students are in safe spaces and following the health measures.

Today, on World Teachers’ Day, we pay tribute to inspiring educators and look at some of the facts and figures around the people who are guiding the next generation.

Theirworld has also produced a comprehensive information toolkit called The Key, which can equip anyone to make a robust case for education. It has all of the talking points, pitch decks, facts and infographics needed – and is broken down into topics. Check out The Key’s resource on Teachers and Education.

1. Today's the big day

World Teachers’ Day has been marked on October 5 every year since 1994. It is an occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide and recognise its achievements. It also gives voices to teachers, who are at the heart of efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of providing a quality, inclusive education for every child. The 2020 theme is “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”. 

2. How many teachers?

There are about 80 million school teachers worldwide and more than half are female. Women account for 94% of teachers In pre-primary education globally and about half of those in upper secondary education. In low-income countries, only 23% of secondary school teachers are women.

3. But that's not nearly enough

World leaders promised to give every child in the world a quality education by the year 2030. But to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, the UN says an extra 69 million teachers must be recruited – 24.4 million in primary schools and 44.4 million in secondaries. Three-quarters of them need to be in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

4. How a teacher changed my life

Desi Saragih Gya From Indonesia

Desi Saragih gained confidence thanks to her teacher

Desi Saragih from Indonesia is one of Theirworld’s network of Global Youth Ambassadors in 90 countries. She said: “Back in primary school, I used to be extremely shy. Until in 5th grade, my science teacher purposefully called my name every time she asked a question and waited patiently until I answered. Slowly but surely I gained confidence in speaking and expressing my thoughts. Now I have been speaking abroad, at public events with 2000+ participants.”

5. How a teacher changed my life (part 2)

Godwin Okoduwa from Nigeria is also a Theirworld Global Youth Ambassador. He said: “My English teacher in high school had the most profound impact on my personal development. Asides from regular classroom interactions, she made me read a new book every week and she personally monitored my progress consistently for four years. Today I am an author of four books and a content creator with my own firm.”

6. Biggest meeting of teachers in history

Education International is hosting the biggest-ever online meeting of teachers to mark World Teachers’ Day. The global teachers’ organisation says the 24-hour live event today will give teachers everywhere “the opportunity to come together, celebrate their achievements and mobilise to ensure the world addresses the issues the pandemic made painfully clear”.

7. Meet the world's best teacher

Peter Tabichi Gtp 1

(Global Teacher Prize)

The current holder of the Global Teacher Prize is Peter Tabichi – a Franciscan friar and a teacher at a poorly-equipped school in rural Kenya, where he gave away 80% of his monthly income to help the community. His 2019 win came with a $1 million prize. Peter said: “Teaching is in my blood. My father was a teacher. My uncles and cousins were also teachers. Caring for people is in my heart.” This year’s winner will be announced later this month.

8. ... and a couple of previous title-holders

Hanan Al Hroub, who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp, won the 2016 Global Teacher Prize. She decided to become a teacher after her own children were left traumatised when they saw a shooting on the way home from school. The 2017 winner was Maggie MacDonnell, who works in a village so deep into the Canadian Arctic that you can’t reach it by road. She said: “The school doors may close but the relationship with your students is continuous as you share the community with them.”

9. Teachers hit by pandemic too

World Teacher Day 2020 School Closures

School closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic directly affected 63 million primary and secondary teachers in 165 countries, as well as 1.6 billion students at all levels.

10. Not enough qualified teachers

In sub-Saharan Africa, only 64% of primary and 50% of secondary school teachers were actually trained and qualified to teach in 2018 – compared to 71% and 79% respectively in 2005. The decline is due to the rising demand for education from a growing school-age population. 

11. What the world needs now is... young teachers

In OECD countries, teachers under the age of 30 account on average for only 13% of teachers in primary education, 11% in lower secondary and 8% in upper secondary.

12. Going the extra mile in Tanzania

Brac Tanzania Teacher Lemmy Lucian Gives Covid Advice To Families

(BRAC Tanzania)

When coronavirus shut schools in Tanzania, two ICT teachers with the Theirworld-backed Skills for Their Future programme for girls went from door to door to reach 116 families in the capital Dar es Salaam with advice, health flyers and educational materials. Lemmy Lucian said: “We reminded the girls it was important to concentrate on their studies. And we provided them with materials to learn while waiting for the schools to reopen.”

13. They even built a classroom

Teachers at an elementary school in the village of Kacuni in central Bosnia used their summer holiday to build an open-air classroom to protect children from Covid-19. Language teacher Mirza Begovic said: “Our model offers a breath of fresh air both for teachers and students. It allows us to breathe, speak and work freely. I am so proud of it.”

14. Happy to be back at school

When Italian schools reopened on September 14 after coronavirus closures, Patrizia Zucchetta – a primary teacher in Rome – said: “There is a huge sense of excitement both on the part of us teachers and the children. We are very happy to see each other again but it is also a struggle not to get too close.”

15. Working with refugee children

World Refugee Day Teachers 2


Stamatia Padermaraki teaches maths and English to young refugees at the LEDU informal education centre on the Greek island of Leros. She said: “Working with child refugees has made me realise even more how important access to education is. Refugee children come from harsh environments and have usually been deprived of many things. After only a few days in school children socialise, become more receptive and self-aware. There is no greater feeling of contentment than being part of this effort.”

16. England's teachers put in the hours

Teachers in England work the longest hours in the world, according to research by University College London. One in four put in more than 60 hours a week. Four in 10 usually work in the evening – and 10% at weekends.

17. Quality teaching matters

Having a good teacher is equivalent to an average gain in learning of one school year. Having a great teacher is equivalent to 1.5 years of learning. But having a weak teacher may mean mastering less than half of the expected subject content. Source: Malala Fund.

18. Some more amazing prize guys

World Teacher Day 2020 Mayerlin Vergara Perez

UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award Laureate 2020, Mayerlin Vergara Perez (UNHCR / Nicolo Filippo Rosso)

The winner of the 2020 Nansen Refugee Award is Mayerlín (Maye) Vergara Pérez, an educator and youth worker from Colombia who has spent more than 20 years rescuing sexually exploited and trafficked children, many of them refugees.

Of the four regional winners, three are involved directly in education. They are: Sabuni Francoise Chikunda, a refugee school teacher from the Democratic Republic of the Congo living in Uganda; Rozma Ghafouri, an Afghan refugee living in Iran who founded a project which gets refugee children off the streets and into education; Dr Rana Dajani, from Jordan – a scientist who founded the We Love Reading project which aims to make books and reading accessible to children in every community including refugee camps.

19. Teachers show the way

David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International, paid tribute to teachers’ efforts during the pandemic. He said: “Teachers have been absolutely outstanding during these incredibly hard times. Now is the time to stand together because together we have the power to effect real change in the world. We are the teaching and learning profession. If the world is to learn the lessons of the pandemic, teachers must take the lead.”

20. Free cheers for our teachers

McDonald’s Canada will celebrate World Teachers’ Day by giving free coffee or tea to teachers and education support staff across the country.

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