Security in schools and the lack of qualified teachers were just two topics discussed at an EI/Afghanistan Teachers' Association (ATA) seminar held in Kabul from 20-22 November 2012. The seminar, ‘Strategies to strengthen ATA and contribute to education development’ aimed to equip the education union with tools to provide students with quality education and to achieve the Education for All goal.
Other topics discussed by the 26 participants from four provinces in Afghanistan included: the lack of school buildings, the lack of teaching materials, the low capacity of government administration, corruption, families’ lack of focus on their children’s education, and poverty.
Protecting human and trade union rights
Concerning human rights issues, participants acknowledged that the Islamic view of human rights is most prevalent in Afghanistan. They stressed that social stability would only occur if everyone knew and asserted their human and civil rights. The basic human rights outlined included freedom of expression, right to organise, right to education, religious rights; political rights such as the right to vote, to run for the office, and campaigning rights; and economic rights including the right to free trade, and to choose working opportunities.
Participants renewed their commitment to workers’ rights such as a safe working environment, decent salaries, working days and hours, and the implementation of women’s rights in the workplace.
Following on their long-standing fight against child labour, participants reiterated that children’s rights must be respected. This includes the rights to live and develop into mature citizens, including the right to education and to safety. Children also have the right to express their opinions, access information, and exert their freedom of religious belief.
Trade union’s strengths
Participants highlighted the ATA strengths, including experienced leadership and trained and professional members. The better use of global supports, enhanced collection of membership dues, invitations to workshops and seminars for more teachers, and convincing more teachers to join the ATA were identified as real opportunities for the union to grow.
Other ways to develop the ATA were debated: How to develop and implement a comprehensive policy on education? How to develop teachers’ methodologies? How to increase the budget allocated to education? How to increase women’s participation in the education sector?
EI: Strong union and increased financing of education are vital
“It is crucial that trade unions develop their capacities, to be better equipped to advocate for all their members and quality education,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “This is why we welcome our affiliate’s will to develop and be a major actor in education, in collaboration with national authorities, through social dialogue.”
Van Leeuwen condemned the fact that the economic circumstances of many of the poorest families was leading to an increase in child labour and withdrawal of children, and especially girls, from school. He said that “EI demands that all countries prioritise investment in public education as the most effective way to stimulate economic growth and social stability and cohesion. It urges national governments to recognise the value of entering into partnership with trade union organisations in planning and implementing programmes for economic recovery and development.”