Tapping the fountain of youth, through helping young teachers grow within their profession, is being looked to as a way of ensuring the future of Arab unions and to guaranteeing respect for trade union rights.
On day two of the second conference of Education International’s Arab Countries Cross-Regional Structure (ACCRS) in Amman, Jordan, participants from 13 regional countries tackled the challenge of keeping unions sustainable.
When the focus turned to retaining and recruiting young teachers, Sadek Dziri, a member of the ACCRS Committee from the Union Nationale des Travailleurs de l’Education et de la Formation(UNPEF) in Algeria, stated that “we should all be able to welcome and include young members. We need to have change and renewal in leadership positions.”
Henrik Herber, from the Swedish education union, and Education International (EI) affiliate, Lärarförbundet, reported on the example of his own union, which recently elected a new young leadership. Also, he said that his union makes sure that young members are elected on the organisation’s executive board, and that they have their own committee within the union structure.
The participants, who well represented the region from Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Somalia, Tunisia, and Yemen stood together to agree on the importance of recruiting young members who possess great energy, enthusiasm and new ways of thinking and communicating, such as social media, to serve education unions’ executive boards.
The first meeting of Arab higher education unions highlighted the many challenges facing universities and academic staff, including short-term contracts, undermined academic freedom, decreased independence of university councils, and privatisation.
Participants were presented with three solutions to meet these challenges: creation of a network of higher education unions; organisation of seminars on academic freedom and topics relevant for university staff; and condemnation by EI and affiliates of any violations to academic freedom or other students and professors’ human rights perpetrated on a campus.
Creating regional unity
Defending and enhancing trade union rights in the Arab world was urged to be a key work priority moving forward for EI, said ACCRS President Taher Dhaker, from the Tunisian Syndicat général de l'enseignement de base(SGEB). He pointed to his own country as an example of progress, reminding attendees of the fact that education unions succeeded in having the freedom of association and the right to strike enshrined in the Tunisian constitution following the Arab Spring.