On the 5th October, the United Nations celebrated World Teachers’ Day. This celebration was overshadowed by a warning: there is a global shortage of teachers. 6 million new teachers are needed to meet the Millennium Development Goal. This internationally agreed goal aims to have universal primary education by 2015. Mostly African regions struggle with a chronic lack of teachers.

At least one million extra posts are needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone, according to UNESCO. But the shortfall of teachers also affects most western countries such as the USA, Spain, Italy and Sweden, where many are required to replace those leaving the job for retirement, illness or career change.

The World Teachers’ Day 2011 was themed ‘Teachers for gender equality’. Women outnumber men in the teaching profession in primary schools, but their working conditions are worse. If teachers are to be good role models for gender equality, inequalities within the teaching profession must be addressed.

UNESCO events for the Day included workshops about ‘Gender at school’ and the launch of a new publication: "Women and the Teaching Profession: Exploring the Feminisation Debate".