WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY: Salesian Missions highlights education and support programs for teachers around the globe
Educational initiatives in Ghana, India, Kenya and Nepal illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that highlights this year’s theme of teachers leading during a crisis.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 5, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring World Teachers’ Day celebrated each year on Oct. 5. The day honors the vital role that teachers play in the lives of their students. Since 1994, World Teachers’ Day has been held annually and commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has noted that the theme for this year’s World Teachers’ Day is “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future,” and the day “provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, take stock of achievements and draw attention to the voices of teachers, who are at the heart of efforts to attain the global education target of leaving no one behind.”
In a statement about the day, UNESCO noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly added to the challenges faced by already over-extended education systems throughout the world. It is no exaggeration to say that the world is at a crossroads and, now more than ever, we must work with teachers to protect the right to education and guide it into the unfolding landscape brought about by the pandemic.”
Teachers play an important role in the lives of poor youth in Salesian schools. Their work is vital to their students’ success both in and out of the classroom. Salesian missionaries educate more than 1 million youth in over 5,500 schools and youth centers and nearly 1,000 vocational, technical and agricultural schools in more than 130 countries around the globe.
“Teachers are the backbone of the Salesian educational system and have had to quickly modify how they provide education during the pandemic—not an easy feat for many Salesian teachers,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian teachers face many challenges educating poor youth, and the pandemic has only exacerbated these challenges. Many of their students have faced severe poverty and often lack basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Some were previously living and working on the streets and others have faced war as child soldiers or become refugees in war-torn communities. Salesian teachers meet these challenges head-on, providing education and hope for a brighter future.”
In honor and celebration of World Teachers’ Day 2020, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight the work of Salesian teachers and programs that support them around the globe.
The Don Bosco Youth Network and the Salesian-run International Volunteer Service for Development (VIS) are promoting the green economy and sustainable agriculture as part of a project for “Local Economic Empowerment for Women, Youth and Vulnerable Groups.” The Don Bosco Youth Network of the Salesian West African Province organized an educational session for trainers in bio-entomology to boost its campaign and promotion of organic agriculture as part of its commitment to Don Bosco Green Alliance.
The bio-entomology training brought together 30 participants from various Salesian disciplines and programs, including Salesian agriculture teachers and staff from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Ten youth who are mentor farmers also attended the course. Participants attended classroom lectures, field identification and preparation of botanicals, testing of efficacy of organic preparations, and control of pests in the greenhouse. The training was led by Professor Daniel Obeng-Ofori, vice-chancellor of the Catholic University College of Ghana, Fiapre.
The training provided an overview of methods for using plants and botanicals to control pests in farming and storage of crops. Beneficial insects and organisms were identified so that farmers knew what they were, their benefits and not to kill them when they are found on the farm. Parasitoids (organisms that feed on pests) were also studied.
In addition, the training educated the participants on various methods of preparing the botanicals and multiplying beneficial organisms. Other methods for preventing and controlling pests were part of the integrated approach without the use of inorganic pesticides. The participants finished the course learning the key effects and impacts on the indiscriminate use of pesticides on human health, sustainable production, beneficial insects, parasitoids and the environment.
Don Bosco’s Prafulta Psychological Services, located in Mumbai, India, graduated 42 teachers who are now trained in basic skills in counseling. The teachers took the training course from June to November 2019.
One teacher noted, “More than ever, our children today need our emotional support and understanding. This course has helped me to accept and understand the variety of children I encounter in my all-inclusive classroom and be present for each of them.”
Prafulta Psychological Services was started in 1998 and provides psychological evaluation and diagnosis, professional counseling, career guidance, remedial education, psychiatric services, and occupational therapy. The organization’s psychologists and other professionals offer these services to individuals, groups and families to help aid independent functioning and improve quality of life.
To help increase mental health awareness and meet the needs of children, Prafulta Psychological Services offers coursework and training for professionals, including teachers, to advance their skills in helping youth and their families in a school setting. The Basic Skills in Counseling for Teachers program was launched in 2005 and provides training to help teachers learn the skills to handle basic emotional and developmental issues of their students. To date, the program has trained 777 teachers from 133 schools.
In order to improve the quality of the technical training at Don Bosco Boys Town (also known as Bosco Boys), located in Nairobi, Kenya, 16 teachers participated in additional training, which was supported by Slovak Aid, a nongovernmental organization that supports community initiatives. After taking their exams, the teachers qualified as technicians and instructors in their chosen field. They acquired their provisional certificates and are already improving the quality of their students’ education.
The Don Bosco Boys Town program provides education and technical skills training to former street children in Nairobi and is currently serving more than 600 boys and girls in primary, secondary and technical school.
Students who complete their primary education are then assisted with secondary education or are advised to choose technical training in sister institutions. The secondary education is most often provided at Don Bosco Technical Secondary School in the town of Embu, northeast of Nairobi.
Two Salesian schools in the Don Bosco Community of Bharoul in eastern Nepal are conducting educational lessons for 1,500 students using 42 rented rooms, each called a community classroom. Each class educates only 10 students at a time and strictly follows government restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are 46 teachers who are facilitating this new way of learning. The lessons began on July 16.
Schools in Nepal have been closed for the last three months due to the coronavirus pandemic, and there is still uncertainty when schools will be back to normal. School premises cannot be used to conduct lessons because the students cannot all come together to learn. To continue reaching students, Salesians rented rooms to conduct lessons in nearby villages, educating smaller subsets of students. This method was preferred over online lessons because of the financial restrictions on many students.
The local government educational department has given Salesians the authorization to carry out the lessons this way. All regulations must be strictly respected, such as the use of masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
Currently, lessons in major subjects such as English, Nepali, math, science and social studies are being taught. Students, parents and teachers are all in support of these new lessons. From the first day lessons started, 95 percent of students were in class.
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