EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, has paid tribute to the leadership of its affiliate member, the Independent Trade Union of Education Workers of the Azerbaijan Republic, which celebrated its 90th anniversary on 9 June, 2010.
Speaking at an event to mark the celebratory occasion, van Leeuwen paid tribute to the Union for setting an example for other education unions in a region which has been at the centre of political and ethnic conflict over the past two decades.
Echoing these sentiments AITUCEW President, Sattar Mehbaliyev, addressed more than 300 teachers’ representatives from across the country who had gathered for organisation’s 90th anniversary celebrations in Baku, Azerbaijan. He said: “We must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice to create our teachers’ union in 1920.”
Mehbaliyev’s remarks were a direct reference to the turbulent times at the beginning of the last century when the country was still an integrated part of the Soviet Union. In fact, it was not until 1991, when Azerbaijan regained its independence, that the AITUCEW - to which more than 90 per cent of the country’s educators are affiliated – was freed from Soviet Union laws and practices which limited the freedom of all trade unions.
Mr Mehbaliyev, who is also president of the Azerbaijani Trade Union Confederation, tackled a wide range of challenges facing the national school system, including the responsibility of supporting one million refugees from the Armenian occupied territory of Nagorno Karabah.
Azerbijan’s Education Minister, Misir Mardanaov, who was also in attendance, used the anniversary celebration to announce government plans to up skill-up teachers and to reform the country’s vocational education system in the years ahead.
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, added: “Let us not forget that in today’s global community, teaching is also a matter of imparting democratic values, of making every student understand his or her cultural identity while being aware of the diversity of cultures that make up the richness of humanity.”
“The teachers of Azerbaijan have an important role to play in building bridges between the peoples of the Caucasus.” Van Leeuwen also pointed to problems that persist in the area such as social inequality, limited trade union freedoms and child labour.