Governments around the world have been called to step up support for teachers, warning that the profession is struggling to retain its workforce and attract new talent. The call issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), comes as the world comes together to celebrate the International Teachers Day. The day is marked every year on October 5. However, it has locally been postponed, with authorities citing changes in the academic year as well as students reporting back to school among the setbacks. No official date has been confirmed to mark the celebrations, but a well-placed source at the Ministry of Education confirmed that it will not be extended later than this month. Over 4500 teachers are expected to convene at the BK Arena to mark the day under the theme ‘The transformation of education begins with teachers’. Worldwide, 69 million teachers are needed to reach universal basic education by 2030. The largest deficit is in sub-Saharan Africa. “Lack of training, unattractive working conditions and inadequate funding, all undermine the teaching profession and aggravate the global learning crisis,” asserted Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General. According to her, UNESCO has always placed teachers at the heart of the fight for the right to inclusive and quality education. “There is an urgent need to better recognise this profession on which the future of our children depends,” he added. The agency’s estimates indicate the need for an additional 24.4 million teachers in primary education and some 44.4 million teachers for secondary education in order to achieve universal basic education by 2030. With some of the most overcrowded classrooms in the world, sub-Saharan Africa is also home to the most overburdened teachers and understaffed systems, with 90 percent of secondary schools facing serious teaching shortages. Latest findings from the agency also show that 5.4 million teachers are needed at primary level in sub-Saharan Africa, and 11.1 million teachers at secondary level, to be able to achieve the targets set by the 2030 Agenda. ‘Improve working conditions’ In low-income countries, the first obstacle is the heavy workload. For instance, statistics show that each primary teacher in these countries has an average of 52 pupils per class at primary level, while the global average is 26. The ratio is particularly high in sub-Saharan Africa – 56 pupils per teacher – and Southern Asia – 38. In Europe the average stands at 15 pupils per teacher on average. Equally taxing, according to the data, is that about 26 percent of primary and 39 percent of secondary school teachers do not have the minimum qualification requirements in low-income countries, compared to respectively 14 percent and 16 percent globally. “Female teachers are affected disproportionately due to lack of adequate housing, long and unsafe routes to school and a lack of childcare services making it difficult to keep women in remote teaching posts. The underrepresentation of female teachers in certain knowledge areas, and in leadership positions is another ongoing challenge,” according to findings from the agency. Better salaries must be offered UNESCO data shows that 6 out of 10 countries pay primary school teachers less than other professionals with similar qualifications. The report highlights that three high-income countries have a commendable teacher salary policy. They include Singapore, with an average salary equal to 139 percent of comparable professions, Spain 125 percent, and the Republic of Korea with 124 percent. Meanwhile, this year’s International Teachers Day comes at a time Rwanda recently raised teachers’ salaries by 88 percent in primary school, while secondary school teachers also got a 40 percent increment. The development took effect in August, 2022 and was part of the government’s package of incentives aimed at improving teacher’s livelihoods.