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Education International Congress examines EFAIDS issues

What has been the experience of teachers’ unions on the EFAIDS Programme thus far? How is the training of teachers on HIV/AIDS education developing? What challenges still lie in the path of the unions striving to achieve the Education for All goals? These and other questions were reflected upon at EI’s Congress in Berlin during a series of thematic sessions aimed at getting to the core of the debates on key issues facing the education sector today.

A total of 44 sessions took place on July 23rd in Berlin dealing with themes as wide ranging as the value of early childhood education to teacher migration and countering the effects of privatisation on the quality of education. The EFAIDS team also brought together a number of speakers from the unions implementing the programme to discuss their experiences to date. Four of these sessions focused on the HIV and AIDS Education Training aspect of the programme. The speaker from the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), drew attention to his union’s efforts to cooperate with and provide support for KENEPOTE, the Kenyan Network of Teachers living with AIDS. Similar developments were noted in Uganda where the Ugandan National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) has co-opted the leader of the national association of teachers living with AIDS onto its National Executive Committee. Representatives from the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) spoke of the progress they have made in initiating the cascading system of training. Likewise in Honduras, the teacher union COLPROSUMAH is one of the unions spearheading the HIV/AIDS training which started this year. Others such as the Botswana Teachers’ Union (BTU) spoke of their experience in developing a policy on HIV and AIDS. EI unions in Burkina Faso (SNEA-B and SNESS) highlighted the research which the unions have recently published on the impact of HIV/AIDS on teachers. A number of challenges to the success of the programme were also raised. From Lesotho, the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) delegate noted the severe difficulties they face, which include a lack of funds and insufficient medication. The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) is confronted in particular by logistical problems where in the areas populated by the indigenous Amerindian population, it can take up to seven days to reach schools. To the north of Guyana, in Haiti, politics are the pivotal factor. The difficult political situation, strained relations between the government and the National Confederation of Educators (CNEH) and the apparent lack of will on the part of the government to move on HIV/AIDS education are holding the programme back. On a more positive note, the Association of Teachers (BvL) in Suriname were pleased to announce a breakthrough in their negotiations with Government which led to five teachers being released on full pay to run the HIV/AIDS training. At another session on the role of teachers in the achievement of the Education for All goals, speakers from the unions spoke about their efforts in the context of the EFAIDS Programme. There was reference to the link between EFA and AIDS – the fact that AIDS is having a hugely detrimental impact on the education sector and that likewise education is needed to bring an end to AIDS. Five union representatives discussed their individual national approaches to attaining quality education for all: 1. In Chile, the College of Professors (CPC) has commissioned research on decentralisation and its impact on the education sector as a means of fighting for a better education system with equitable access to quality education 2. In Uganda, UNATU has developed a policy on education reform in the context of Education for All 3. In India, the All India Primary Teachers’ Federation (AIPTF) and other EI unions are advocating to ensure that the new Education Bill is in support of the EFA goals. 4. In Niger, the National Teachers’ Union (SNEN) has been working to communicate messages on the importance of pursuing the EFA goals both internally within the union and externally in wider society via films and TV interviews, press releases and promotional materials. 5. In Guyana, the GTU have identified HIV/AIDS as a threat to the EFA goals. There the union are organising training sessions on HIV/AIDS education and more recently information sessions to discuss Education for All. The NGO perspective on EFA and the work of trade unions was provided by Oxfam Novib. Here the fact that NGOs and unions have the same goals when it comes to EFA was highlighted. Therefore it is important to promote partnerships between NGOs and unions on EFA. The speaker also raised the issue of gender which is inextricably linked to AIDS and EFA and would need to be given greater emphasis. For more information, please contact us at efaids@ei-ie.org.

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