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26 Feb 2024
16:30 - 18:00 CET
Online - A2, Maison de la Paix, Geneva Switzerland

Event Highlights: Policy Insights Launch - Refugee Teachers: The Heart of the Global Refugee Response

Wednesday 13 December 2023

16:30 to 18:00 CET

In-person: Auditorium A2, Maison de la Paix, Geneva

Online: Webex

Side event to the Global Refugee Forum


  • Welcoming and moderation: Moira Faul, Executive Director, NORRAG
  • Opening: Martina Ramming, Sector Policy Advisor Education at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
  • Chris Henderson, Education in Emergencies Specialist, NORRAG – Refugee Teachers: The Heart of the Global Refugee Response
  • Janaina Hirata, GADRRRES – How Colombia’s Complex Crises Bring more Challenges to Teachers’ Well-being
    • With Hugo Ediberto Florido Mosquera, Director, Colegio Distrital República Bolivariana de Venezuela.
  • Francis Bizoza Bigirimana, Teacher Educator, Uganda – Strengthening Teacher Professional Development in Refugee Contexts in Uganda: Enhancing Inclusion and Well-being
    • With Felecian Habomugisha, Teacher (Burundi), Nakivale Settlement, Uganda
  • Katja Hinz, UNESCO IIEP and Helen West, EDT, – Paving the Way for Inclusive Teacher Professional Development in Refugee Contexts
  • Rebecca Telford, Chief of Education, UNHCR – In National Inclusion Efforts: Don’t Forget Refugee Teachers
  • Carlos Vargas Tamez, Chief of Secretariat, UNESCO International Teacher Taskforce for Education 2030. – A Shortage of Teachers or a Shortage of Care?
  • Sonia Grigt, Education International – The Value of Teachers’ Voices.
  • Discussant : Farida Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education – Do Refugees’ Right to Education Extend to Refugee Teachers?
  • Launch: Judith Herbertson, Head of Girls’ Education, FCDO

Event Highlights: Policy Insights Launch – Refugee Teachers: the Heart of the Global Refugee Response

On Wednesday, 13 December 2023, NORRAG held a hybrid launch event for its second Policy Insights publication entitled Refugee Teachers: the Heart of the Global Refugee Response. At the start of the event, Moira Faul, NORRAG’s Executive Director, welcomed everyone and opened with a presentation of NORRAG’s work on education and the SDGs. She shared that this Policy Insight aims to expand the debate and foster dialogue among global and national refugee and education policies stakeholders by presenting current evidence and policy directions that prioritize the work and well-being of refugee teachers globally.

Martina Ramming, the Education Focal Point from the Swiss Agency for Development and Coordination, shared some opening remarks. She highlighted that refugee teachers are central to the humanitarian response as they play a crucial role in providing education to refugee children and youth in crisis. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation will prioritize refugee teachers in its international cooperation strategy of 25-28 as the government’s commitment towards the right to education. She discussed how important the NORRAG publication on refugee teachers as it helps hearing from teachers themselves and recognized their professional development and security as refugee teachers, which are issues often under-addressed.  She believes that evidence and policy directions that prioritize and protect the work refugee teachers will promote their well-being.

Following the opening remarks, Christopher Henderson, editor of the policy insights, introduced the publication, which is composed of 28 papers from 48 authors.. He noted that the authors included researchers, policymakers, and practitioners with over fifty percent of them from the Global South, which is in line with NORRAG’s #TheSouthAlsoKnows initiative. The publication represents over fifteen contexts with three thematic areas: the inclusion of refugee teacher voices and policy-making and practice; policies that address the challenges of teachers, work conditions,and their well-being; and finally, the opportunities to improve refugee teacher professional development. He believes such a publication during the Global Refugee Forum was at the right time, as it aims to inform rigorous debate going forward. He called on key stakeholders to engage with the publication and learn from refugee teachers while at the same time seeing refugee teachers as transformative agents for change.

Janaina Hirata, from GADRRRES together with Hugo Ediberto Florido Mosquera, the directorof Colegio República Bolivariana de Venezuela, spoke on the impact of teachers’ well-being in the complex crises of Colombia. Janaina based her contributionon interviews conducted in need assessment and price context to evaluate the teachers’ well-being.  She noted that teachers are some of the most resilient professionals yet but the most vulnerable. Shehighlighted that one of the main effects on their well-being is connected to the capacity to support students and the learning process.  This is due to the inadequacy of resources to equip students with the right skills.Teachers could be burned out, affecting their well-being within a mixed crisis of dealing with internal displacement and refugees from Venezuela. She believes that catchup programmes will be useful to children who come with short or long-term problems of not having access to education. Inadequate psychosocial support and the lack of capacity affect teachers’ well-being. She discussed that education policies should be more crisis-sensitive, where more funds are allocated to schools that accommodate a significant number of refugee populations. She alsoadded that for such a process to be inclusive, the allocation of resources should be based on the teacher’s needs. Finally, she acknowledgedthat the school is a healing place for refugees to adapt well; however, she questioned, if the teachers are not well themselves, how adequately they could promote the well-being of refugee students.

Adding his voice to the subject matter, Hugo Florido, noted that while this recognition is fundamental to initial teacher training, it will also form the basis for post-graduate training of teachers to be equipped with intercultural skills. He believes it will enable teachers to overcome barriers to learning for refugee children.  He also noted that a key feature of teacher training in Latin America should be the recognition of teachers within their level of diversity. He stressed that teacher’s recognition of diversity can help establish the right relationships with migrant children in order to meet their needs.

Francis Bizoza Bigirimana, a teacher educator in Uganda, and Pasca Pasco, a refugee teacher in Kyangwali refugee camp, discussed the inclusion and well-being of refugee teachers through strengthening teacher professional development in refugee contexts in Uganda. Francis highlighted that sixty percent of the over 1.5 million refugees in Uganda’s host communities are children, stressing the need for education as well as more teachers for these children. However, he notedthat teacher shortages remain the biggest challenge among these settlements’ schools. Due to their different cultural background, they required sufficient support to receive quality education. Having more refugees teachers is imperative as they understand the backgrounds of these students. He therefore called on stakeholders in the country to enable refugee’s teachers to be integrated into the country’s educational system. Francis shared some highlights on the Flying Colors Program, which seeks to address out-of-school refugee children in the hosting community but got halted during the Covid-19 pandemic. He added that in-service training will enhance professional development of refugee teachers to familiarize themselves with the national and local curriculum.  Additionally, clear qualification and documents for refugee teachers are to be assumed into the national system. Finally, he called on stakeholders to assist refugees’ teachers to validate their documents in the Uganda education system as finance is their major challenge.

Additionally, Pasca Pasco a refugee currently an Information Communication and Technology teacher in Kyangwali Secondary School in Uganda also shared his experience. He stressed that even though they are teaching, the recognition of their qualification by the government remains their biggest struggle. While they are not remunerated for their service their documents remain unrecognized by the government at the same time. He therefore appeals to stakeholders to help resolve the aforementioned to improve teaching and learning in host communities.

Katja Hinz, of UNESCO IIEP and  Helen West, of EDT as authors to publication then shared a presentation on paving way for inclusive teacher professional development in refugee contexts. Katja Hinz discussed that project was based on their research findings in 2017 and 2018, which indicated that very little  known among teaching in refugee settings and how it is managed. She identified 3 dimensions of teacher management that are key to the motivation, retention and quality teaching. This included recruitment and deployment, professional development and lastly job conditions. She mentioned that reports and short policy briefs were developed with concrete recommendations on how teacher management can be strengthened in refugee settings by considering the specific realities in these countries.

On the other hand, Helen West from EDT spoke about the enabling factors for inclusive teacher professional development in refugee context in their article. She began by discussing that supporting refugees and those from host communities to access pre-service education is crucial, yet it is often overlooked. She questioned weather refugees have access to the National Teacher Training Colleges as their movements are even restricted within the camp settings. She also highlighted that finance continues to remain an obstacle for refugees to attend teacher training colleges. She noted that it is important to include teachers working in camp settings in the national service teacher professional development. She concludes by stating there is a need for strong national leadership and clear communication to improve refugee’s teacher development.

Rebecca Telford, Chief of Education at UNHCR, presented on national inclusion efforts of refugee teachers. Rebecca draws on forthcoming publication around the typology of teachers covering 16 countries to discuss the inclusion of refugee teachers’ national systems. She argued that there is an increasing push in the inclusion in national systems which has been recognized as the most scalable way of accessing quality education, yet the inclusion of refugee teachers is often not considered in this space. She noted that low and irregular payment of salaries disincentivizes teachers in many countries. She argued that there should be predictable and sustainable multi-year financing mechanisms for teacher salaries, otherwise refugee children might not be interested in becoming teachers in future, whichcould increase the global teacher shortage for future generations.

Carlos Vargas Tamez, Chief of Secretariat, UNESCO International Teacher Taskforce for Education 2030, focused on the shortage of teachers. He based his discussion on the module of teacher policy development for internal displaced people particularly on the management of refugee teachers and teachers in emergencies. The document is a collection of promising practices both from governments and development partners which will be released biennially with the first edition on teacher shortage. He mentioned these are efforts in monitoring Sustainable Development Goal 4.6, towards the goal of enhancing qualified teachers for everybody and in every classroom. He noted that although different factors are causing teachers attrition globally, nonetheless, working conditions of teachers remains a key factor within the last five years. He added that teachers working conditions has a considerable impact on student learning outcomes. The improvement in the teacher’s remuneration but more importantly commitment to developing frameworks that gives recognition and validate the accreditation of teachers’ qualifications.

Sonia Grigt, from Education International, spoke on the value of refugee teachers’ voices in policy-making and practice. She began by highlighting that trade and teachers’ unions need to be seen as partners in refugee education responses. Unions have resources, experience and a track record of addressing the issues and challenges that refugee teachers faced through dialogue and collective bargaining. They are crucial as they understand the barriers and required solutions but most importantly  contributes to the implementation and monitoring of issues on the grounds. Strong education unions can also promote social cohesion and solidarity through peer leaning among refugee teachers. She also highlighted some of the work Education International where they have been advocating for the rights of refugee teachers in their host countries. She concludes by highlighting that Educational International will advocate for the establishment of an international financing mechanism to bridge the funding gap for salaries for refugee teachers in crisis settings.

Farida Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education discussed whether refugees’ right to education is extended to refugee teachers. She noted that while there is less support for teachers, there is huge expectation for them to adopt sudden environmental changes like digitally savvy as well as being responsive to refugees during emergencies. She also highlighted that until teachers as whole are valued, refugee teachers will not get the needed attention. Farida shared that there is an imbalance between the challenge and what is being funded in terms of educating everyone.hile refugee teachers are expected to teach the children once relocated, there is lack of space to talk about the trauma which they faced affecting their well-being. She noted that even though the digital world is not the panacea to refugee problems, digital exclusion among refugee communities remains very high.One of the issues for refugee teachers remains interacting with peers and professional associations within their host countries. She called for negotiation with stakeholders to integrate refugee teachers in the mainstream system to prevent any possible tension that may arise. She also highlighted that education is lifelong, therefore all states should play a major role rather than leaving it in the hands of the private sector. Most of the refugees are found in developing countries where austerity measures are impacting their education sector, which hasan adverse impact on refugee teachers. Finally, she called on the international financial institutions to reconsider their conditionalities when giving loans to poor countries to prevent less funds allocated to education.

Before officially launching the publication, Judith Herbertson Head of Girls’ Education, FCDO, shared some comments. She started by stating that teachers remain the bedrock of any education system particularly for those children from unstable situations. Teachers are confronted with a lot of challenges in maintaining their alliance with their own professional commitment when they become refugees. These include handling the social and psychological needs of students while dealing with their own personal issues including the future of their own children. She noted that the United Kingdom is committed to supporting the inclusion of refugee children and youth in international education systems. She also noted that while AI will improve education, teachers cannot be replaced for human and emotional intelligence they provide for traumatized children. She further stated that, although refugee teachers are undervalued, they remain instrumental in the process of integrating refugee children into host countries’ systems.

The NORRAG Refugee Teacher Policy Insight Launch event was closed by Moira Faul, who thanked the speakers, panelists and the participants for the questions shared during the event.

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