Africa’s education leadership works towards union unity

Africa’s top education union leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to increase trade union unity on the continent to help reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Convening for its annual statutory meeting held from 11-12 September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Education International (EI) Africa Regional Committee reiterated its commitment to quality education for all by linking the theme of the next Africa’s Regional Conference to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), especially SDG 4: ‘‘Inclusive and equitable quality education in Africa’’: the place of the unions in achieving the 2030 Agenda”.

The Committee highlighted the need for concerted effort among education unions in Africa to achieve SDG4, as reports coming from the six EI African zones unveiled the recurring issue of the weakening of trade unions in various countries, the major cause being the proliferation of splinter unions. This union pluralism has resulted for example in the existence of as many as 159 teacher unions in Benin, 55 in Cote d’Ivoire, and 39 in Senegal, and there is a similar trend in many other African countries.

The Committee therefore reiterated that ‘unity’ is the regional priority, as well as the need to elaborate a clear strategy ensuring that trade unions become stronger.

“Unity is certainly important in strengthening the movement in Africa. It is one of the major tools for labour education but we should be not be so inflexible to lock out some of the emerging progressive  groups,” EI Africa Regional Committee’s President Wilson Sossion stressed in his address to African education leaders.

As we must be able to substantiate our arguments and I am happy with the establishment of the EI Africa’s Research Network, he added.

He also agreed with the other education union leaders that “democracy is not a gift of nature, it must be won” and “unions are democratic institutions with possibilities of influencing the world”.

There is a great need to raise professional standards to make it more difficult for governments to ignore teachers, and privatisation and commercialisation of education must be halted, he further acknowledged.

Sossion went on to underline the seven signals of teacher deprofessionalisation, which is another major challenge for African teacher unions, i.e. the influx of untrained teachers, the casualisation of teaching, the gap in pay, the reduction of professional autonomy, standardised testing, increased evaluation of teachers, and the importation of private management systems into the public sector.

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