October 5, 2006 was a day of action and a day of celebration, as teachers around the world took to the streets to defend their rights and joined together to promote their profession and honour their colleagues.
Education International hosted a series of events in Brussels on World Teachers’ Day, starting with a panel discussion on quality teachers for quality education, followed by an international round table with EI’s President Thulas Nxesi and General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, Johanna Walgrave of the ILO, Georges Haddad of UNESCO, and Annelise Hostmark Tarrou, president of the CEART, the Expert Committee that monitors compliance with the standards articulated in the ILO/UNESCO Recommendations. For more details on EI’s major report to the CEART, see page ___. Here are only a few snapshots of events that took place in various countries: In Lisbon, capital of Portugal, more than 25,000 education workers took part in a march to demonstrate against the Ministry of Education’s proposal to introduce a teaching career statute for pre-school instructors and teachers at primary and secondary level. The new statute sets out major changes for teachers in many aspects of their terms and conditions of employment, and the unions regard it as a serious attack on their profession. In Athens, Greece, several events were organized amidst a strike by members of the Primary Teachers’ Federation, who are demanding better wages and an increase in the budget for public education. In a message of solidarity from EI, van Leeuwen said: “Governments need to accept that the teaching profession is not a voluntary entreprise and teachers need a living wage to exercise their profession.” In the Caribbean, the Barbados Union of Teachers organized a full week of events including a national teacher appreciation day, an awards ceremony for students and teachers, a public lecture, professional development workshop, and a social event at the union headquarters, complete with food, refreshments and a karaoke session. Teachers from various organizations in the Phillippines marked World Teachers’ Day in cooperation with the Department of Education, and the Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers held several activities in the Mindanao region, including a forum and an essay or composition writing contest. In Niger, chiefs as well as political and administrative leaders visited schools and awarded prizes to deserving teachers. The celebration coincided with debate in Parliament about accusations that former education officials had mismanaged education funds. The union used the opportunity to reaffirm the importance of transparency and sound management of education resources, and the role of the union in monitoring and implementing education policies. In Ethiopia the WTD celebration was postponed to Saturday, October 7 because, in the context of the current government repression, teachers could not get permission to attend events on October 5. Teachers, parents and supporters from Addis Abbaba and suburbs attended the event, which provided a chance to reflect on quality teachers and quality teaching. EI Deputy General Secretary Janice Eastman sent a letter of support. The reading of this letter sparked a standing ovation to the international community for its support. The teacher union leaders previously arrested had been released on bail, so they were present to greet colleagues. In Canada, teacher unions across the country organized a variety of events and campaigns to highlight the key role teachers play in society. British Columbia teachers coordinated a successful advertising campaign in which famous citizens offered testimonials about important teachers in their lives. For example a much-loved novelist is pictured saying: “My mother was a Kindergarten teacher. She gave me the love of stories. My Grade 1 teacher taught me to read. She gave me the love of books. Teachers give us the gifts of what they love.” In Germany, the GEW published a colourful booklet called Proud to be a Teacher, which featured profiles of teachers in Indonesia, Brasil, Kenya, and Australia as well as Germany. It also sent colourful e-mail greetings to members with a photo of a big bouquet of red tulips and a thank-you message. Kudos to the employers in Victoria, Australia who created a witty advertising campaign to mark World Teachers’ Day. Large newspaper advertisements showed a smiling teacher wearing a number of funny hats piled on top of his head. The headline said “Teachers do it with hat and soul” – a word play on “heart and soul.” The ad read: “Every day teachers wear many hats, from coach to project manager, creative thinker to entertainer. They bring passion and enthusiasm to the classrom that inspire our students. Teachers are multiskilled professionals who lead our children in learning.” If only every teacher got the same praise and respect from the employer! ****** World Teachers’ Day message from EI President Thulas Nxesi: On behalf of Education International, I want to wish a very “Happy World Teachers’ Day” to all of the 30 million teachers who are members of our more than 350 affiliated unions. And to all teachers everywhere, I want to say thank you! Thank you for your caring and your dedication to the students. Thank you for your hard work and long hours in the classroom, on the playground, and in the community. Thank you for your professionalism and your commitment to life-long learning. Thank you for your activism in your unions, and your solidarity with colleagues around the globe. To the teachers of the world … I salute you! I know that together we can continue to strengthen our profession and build strong, stable public education systems in all our countries. ********** In its World Teachers’ Day statement, UNESCO warned that the world will need 18 million new teachers in the coming decade to meet demand for primary education. “There can be no viable long-term solution to our education challenges and teacher shortages without investment in training and measures to promote respect for the teaching profession,” UN agency leaders said.