Cooperation is the current buzzword in the corridors of the Africa Forum of Teaching Regulatory Authorities in Africa (AFTRA). A new kid on the education block, AFTRA aims to promote teaching standards Continent-wide and to facilitate better cooperation between members. What’s behind the drive?
With the support of UNESCO in October 2010, the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and the International Forum of Teaching Regulatory Authorities (IFTRA) came together for a roundtable discussion of the various issues that have been holding back progress in the formulation of international standards in the teaching profession. It was through these deliberations that AFTRA was founded.
Steve Nwokeocha, the TRCN’s Director of Operations, says that the work that AFTRA is doing is long overdue. “Thus far, the regulations followed by Africa’s various professional teaching boards have lacked harmony, and there has been insufficient cooperation amongst researchers. That’s where AFTRA comes in. We’re still a young organisation, but we are already building up the type of synergy that will get us to establish sound, global benchmarks for what we expect teachers to accomplish as professionals.”
AFTRA’s first Annual Teaching and Learning in Africa Conference will be held in Cotonou, Benin alongside eLearning Africa. Nwokeocha explains, “We chose to meet at this time because eLearning Africa is Africa’s biggest intellectual summit. It attracts educators who are addressing some of the same issues we as teaching professionals are dealing with, so there is much scope for cooperation.” Establishing best-practice guidelines for ICT-enhanced education is a matter that AFTRA must address. But with differing levels of ICT infrastructure and uptake in the member countries, are such plans feasible? Nwokeocha says that this has indeed been a challenge. “In Nigeria, we declared 2006 the Year of ICT and went on a major drive to train teachers in eLearning practices. However, TRCN has had to bear the costs of transporting, feeding and accommodating trainee teachers, an expensive route that was possible only through the support of the World Bank, UNESCO and USAID.” A more viable plan is to charge money for the registration of teachers – an essential consideration if teaching is to rise to the professional standards desired. “Up until now, in Nigeria, teachers have simply graduated from colleges without necessarily having any affiliation with a university. We now expect them to have university training so that we can increase the skill level of those who will in turn be educating the nation.”
Eventually, the standards and practices in place across Africa will need to be harmonised, and thus AFTRA’s first forays into collaboration across the Continent have been met with guarded optimism in most quarters. Without naming names, Nwokeocha says, “The countries that have been reluctant to join AFTRA typically don’t have teaching regulatory authorities set up, but this apathy will probably fade away as AFTRA increases its dialogue with ministries of education across Africa. We have to start somewhere, and we’re doing so right now!”
AFTRA’s first Annual Teaching and Learning in Africa Conference takes place alongside eLearning Africa 2012 on Wednesday, May 23rd in Cotonou, Benin.