UNESCO We Teach Here, Uganda

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Tess Kanters and Filmmaker Abubaker Muwonge

What motivated you to make your impact video?

Tess: Learning about confronting issues and resourceful solutions by working with local researchers and filmmakers.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Abubaker: CANON 5D MARK 2, with the zoom lens 24 to 105mm. Tripod and reflector.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your impact video to help tell your story.

Abubaker: I just make sure I capture beautiful pictures in the frame, composed and framed the best way possible depending on the angle of the light and subject movement. Plus some obscure compositions. The trick is in understanding the story, the purpose of capturing the story and therefore you creatively do your best to capture all the necessary scenes and moments. I befriend my subjects and make them feel safe and free to work with me. Their cooperation was important. I am a perfectionist. I do not shy away from asking the subjects to redo the shoots. And for lack of enough time with a lot to film, I rarely take breaks for proper meals during working hours. It is hectic but worth it as long as I capture the shots well enough. Also directing the subjects, guiding them into doing what brings out the story well. I directed most of those scenes. Proposing what to do and how to do it. I also do not fear to shoot against the light. Having time before shooting to identify the best subjects for the story is also nice. This helps you to get the active, sharp and willing subjects.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

Tess: The story evolved quite a bit during research and scripting but from the moment we selected the main characters, it all went very smoothly and the result actually is what I thought it would be. In the beginning we did not have the full research data about the conditions of refugee teachers because the UNESCO report was not yet complete. By working with an awesome Ugandan research team that regularly interviewed many teachers in the refugee settings, we where able to understand the main issues and concerns that the teachers where facing. That way we could create profiles of what the main characters could look like. With those profiles in mind Ugandan filmmaker Abubaker Muwonge went on a research trip to see what teachers who would like to participate and where not to shy on camera.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this impact video.

Tess: As a director from the Netherlands I could – obviously – never have the cultural sensitivity and local perspective of an Ugandan filmmaker. So for me, working with local crews is always highly educational and rewarding. I think producing a video this way is especially important in a sensitive arena like this refugee settlement. Also, this video was part of a series. The previous two where directed by Anne van Campenhout and located in South Sudan and Kenya. It was very inspiring to learn from her concept and ideas and still make this one my own.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Tess: Involve people who really know what they are talking about for your research. Challenge your own views. Work with local crews and researchers.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

Tess: My favorite part was actually seeing the raw footage for the first time. Normally, as a director you are there during the shoot. But in this case, I created the script and storyline over video calls, getting input from the researchers and Ugandan filmmaker Aubaker Muwonge, which was a great pleasure.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

Abubaker: The desire to deliver to expectations.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

Tess: This video shows the experiences of local Ugandan and refugee teachers in a refugee camp in Uganda through professionally filmed footage and user-generated content where the teachers film their daily experiences themselves, allowing the viewer to share their daily experiences up close. Dedicated to improving the lives of their students, the teachers manage various challenges such as long travel distances to work, language and cultural barriers and now, a COVID lockdown. Although they are resourceful, their circumstances and the quality of education would improve if training and improved working conditions are provided.


What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

Tess: UNESCO describes this best on their website: “Globally, only about two thirds of refugee children are enrolled in primary school. Most of them will spend their entire childhood in exile. Responding to their educational needs will require innovative policy solutions that put teachers at the centre, not only because teachers are essential in ensuring that learning continues during a crisis, but also because teachers are rights-holders themselves as members of affected communities and potentially powerful agents of positive policy reform. While many steps are being taken to encourage the integration of refugee children into education systems, there is less clarity on policies for their teachers. This is why IIEP-UNESCO and partners are developing research-informed policy recommendations for effective teacher management in refugee settings in East Africa. By understanding best policy options, these vital teachers can be sufficiently supported and nurtured as they accompany their students on their learning journey.”


Please share a personal story about your experience making this impact video.

Tess: For me personally, having my perspective challenged, letting the crew have a lot of freedom in following the story and their ideas during the shoot – and then see how well it turned out is very humbling.


What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

Tess: Improving teachers support systems in refugee settings is very important. In the case of this settlement, teachers have up to 100 children in class. They deserve better conditions. Their work is so important. Andrew, one of the teachers says: “Despite the difficulties, I feel very passionate about teaching at a refugee school. In my experience refugees are focused and serious, learn fast in class because of the challenges they have gone through. I enjoy teaching them because there is never a dull moment.”


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:


– dignified storytelling – do’s and don’ts

– the importance of refugee teachers getting paid fairly for the work they do


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

Often considered a model for progressive and inclusive refugee policies, Uganda has been opening its borders to refugees for decades. Currently, there are approximately 1.3 million refugees in Uganda from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and other countries. Not only does Uganda provide protection according to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 OAU Convention, it has also practised an integrative approach to refugee management for years. Refugees have access to services through the Refugees Act of 2006, which entitles refugee children to the same primary education opportunities as Ugandan nationals, and through the Refugee Regulations of 2010, which further promoted the incorporation of refugees within local communities through recognized settlements. Uganda was including refugees in national service provision before this practice was enshrined as a guiding principle in international agreements, through the New York Declaration, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), and the The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).

In line with the CRRF and earlier Ugandan policies, the 2018 Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda (ERP) clarifies that all education programs for refugees are to be coordinated by the Ugandan authorities to promote efficiency and sustainability of services. Identifying insufficient resources as a significant obstacle to providing quality and inclusive education to all children in Uganda, the ERP calls for interventions that develop the capacity of the Ugandan education sector, both national and local, to provide educational services to refugee and host community children. With the CRRF drawing additional international funding to support education in host communities and the ERP establishing a framework for the provision of education locally, the Ugandan government is positioned to provide coordination of educational initiatives for all children in refugee-hosting communities.

In this context, IIEP-UNESCO and EdDevTrust are working on a research study on Teacher Management in Refugee settings in Uganda. This case study will identify promising policies and practices for the management of teachers in primary schools serving refugee students in Uganda, and where there are policy and practice gaps, in order to provide the Government of Uganda and key partners with research-informed policy guidance on how to effectively manage primary-level teachers in refugee settings.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

The research team working on the study can be reached via: [email protected]


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):

– Article featured on the UNESCO homepage for World Teacher Day:

– Article on all three films:

– “Anybody can become a refugee” (interview related to the film):

– Article on the film series on Education4Resilience:

– About the research publications and methodology:



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