Fiji Trade Union Congress’ rally
On 27 September, the Fiji Trade Union Congress union organised a rally at the Fijian Teachers’ Association hall in Suva. Attended by teachers, nurses, and public civil servants, the rally allowed union leaders and members to discuss the imposition of fixed term contracts, the need for a higher minimum wage, a review of labour laws, and the right to strike.
EI was represented at the rally by Govind Singh, General Secretary of the Council of Pacific Education (COPE).
Pacific Islands’ Regional Consultation on Alliance 8.7 in Fiji
From 3-5 October, COPE General Secretary Singh attended the Pacific Islands’ Regional Consultation on Alliance 8.7 in Nadi. The event was also attended by representatives of governments, workers’ and employers’ organisations, UN agencies, regional organisations, development partners, the private sector, civil society organisations and academia, as well as experts, the media and other actors supporting the aims of SDG 8.7. The opportunity enabled the alliance to stimulate political support and strengthen multi-stakeholder action on Target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda.
EI Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Nepal
The EI Asia Pacific regional conference was held from 10-12 October in Kathmandu, Nepal, under the theme, “Transforming Asia Pacific: Education Unions Driving the Education 2030 Agenda”. At the event, more than 400 union delegates outlined solutions to challenges facing the region’s education system.
Some of the topics highlighted included quality public education for all and the Education 2030 Agenda, quality teachers for quality education, the financing of education - including the challenges posed by privatisation and commercialisation - and how teacher unions can promote equity in their societies.
In his remarks to the conference, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen highlighted the strength and unbreakable will of Asia Pacific education unions when confronted with grave events like the natural disasters that have hit the region in recent years. He warned about the effects of the sweeping privatisation of education in many countries, including Nepal. “In the global economy, as long as the rights of investors prevail over the rights of our students and over human and trade union rights, we cannot allow private corporations to conquer the public domain,” he said, adding that public funding is crucial in countering this trend.
In addition, attacks on civil freedoms, and trade union freedom in particular, are a particularly severe threat and a hurdle in transforming societies, including Asia Pacific, he said.
The conference adopted resolutions proposed by member organisations calling for: respect for human and trade union rights in Cambodia; the recognition and legalisation of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union ( KTU), Korea; the rights of indigenous people of South Mindanao, Philippines; the full application of collective bargaining rights and the establishment of programmes to achieve SDG 4 in Fiji; the protection of the rights of Kurd teachers in Iraq; and unity of teachers’ organisations in India.
The conference also accepted resolutions rejecting the rapid privatisation and commercialisation of education services in India, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Education leaders expressed deep concerns regarding the de-professionalisation of teaching in these countries, where growing numbers of unqualified teaching staff are hired on a contract basis. The conference adopted a resolution warning against the erosion of teachers’ status in the Pacific.
On 11 October, the findings of EI’s research on the impoverished state of Nepal’s public school system were presented. Despite the rapid growth of Nepal’s population, only two public schools were established in the Kathmandu area in the past 10 years, compared to some 100 mostly for-profit private schools.
At a campaign planning meeting, EI’s Nepali member organisations further developed their national campaign plans to tackle the rapidly growing privatisation of education in their country.
A breakout session on quality teachers for quality education was also organised during the regional conference, as part of a global consultation carried out by EI to develop its very first policy on quality working conditions and quality terms of employment. The attendees reflected on teacher unions’ vision of quality terms and employment and working conditions, and on the issues facing the teaching profession. Its outcomes, depicting teachers’ reality in the Asia-Pacific region, will inform the policy paper to be produced by the EI Secretariat and presented to EI’s next World Congress in Bangkok in 2019.
The 8th EI Asia-Pacific Regional Conference also elected the EI Asia-Pacific Regional Committee for 2017-2021, with Masaki Okajima from the Japanese Teachers’ Union (JTU) as president, and Correna Haythorpe from AEU and Ram Pal Singh from the All India Primary Teachers’ Federation(AIPTF) as vice-presidents.
COPE General Secretary Singh also officially opened the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Teachers’ Federation Executive Committee meeting on 13 October. He outlined EI’s vision of making unions strong, democratic, and independent. He also challenged SAARC to move towards the realisation of the 17 SDGs.