Sleeping late wasn’t an option Saturday morning as the streets of Pretoria sprang to life with hundreds of teachers, students, and unionists rising early to celebrate quality education under the sun.
Held in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities, Unite Africa, the third of Education International’s (EI) global Unite for Quality Education culmination events, saw more than 700 enthusiastic supporters march through the city to the sounds of whistles, song, and excitement.
The march, led by a busload of school children, who set the tone by waving flags, singing songs and looking to be caught by one of the many cameras covering the event, snaked its way to Pretoria’s Ditsong Nation Museum for Cultural History.
A line-up of speakers, including South Africa’s Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, applauded the campaign’s importance and addressed the challenges ahead.
“Education must be elevated from being a departmental issue, or even a government issue, to a societal issue,” Ms. Motshekga, adding that she identified strongly with the campaign’s three pillars of quality teachers, quality tools, and quality environments when she declared that the education system is only as strong as its teachers.
Fred van Leeuwen, the General Secretary of EI, stressed the importance of education in addressing many of the world’s current problems and conflicts.
“There is no stronger antidote against extremism and totalitarianism than education; there is no better medication against poverty and no stronger stimulus for economic and democratic development,” he passionately proclaimed. “No wonder we find ourselves at the center of a global debate, a global struggle rather, that will determine the future of our children, and the kind of society they will grow up in.”
Organised by South Africa’s three teachers’ unions, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), and the South Africa Teachers’ Union (SAOU), the Unite event brought together teachers from all over the region.
With less than a month to prepare, the three unions came together to plan and carry out what was a memorable event. Originally set for Nairobi, Kenya, Unite Africa had no choice to relocate after the deadly Ebola virus prompted travel bans and safety concerns throughout the region.
Unite’s next stops
The Unite Campaign’s next stops will be a demonstration and seminar at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on 22 Sept., and a large rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 23 September. Education President Susan Hopgood, along with EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen and a team of EI staff, will then take the message of quality education to top officials at the United Nations’ 69th General Assembly in New York, USA on 24 and 25 Sept.
World Teachers’ Day
Quality education will also be a focus point during World Teachers’ Day, 5th Oct., when teachers around the globe will be celebrated in classrooms, villages, and cities for their tireless dedication to the profession.
To make October 5th a day to remember, EI is calling on all members and colleagues to join in by having their voices heard to ensure world leaders know how important a quality teacher is in helping students reach their full potential.
Beginning at 12:00 noon, EI is asking everyone to ‘Push the Button’ by emailing, texting, or tweeting your messages of support for quality education directly to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Click here for more information.