Arab educators tackle diverse challenges to education and teachers in their region

published 6 February 2020 updated 10 February 2020

At a recent meeting, the Committee of the Education International’s Arab Countries Cross Regional Structure reaffirmed their commitment to fight education privatisation and defend democracy in the region. Committee members reported on the challenges faced in their national settings, discussed recent union activities, and strategised for future action and campaigns.

Global Response

The Global Response campaign against the commercialisation and privatisation of education was high on the agenda at the Committee meeting of Education International’s Arab Countries Cross Regional Structure.

During the meeting held in Casablanca, Morocco, from 29-30 January, Education International’s member organisations from Morocco reported on campaign strategies employed to date. Committee members discussed the key findings of independent research analysing the extent and impact of education privatisation in Morocco and proposed strategies for future campaigns against the privatisation and commercialisation of education.

The objectives are to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4, ensure free quality equitable public education for all, and to confront privatisation of education – not private schools themselves – in the Arab region.

Education International’s Vice-President for Africa, Mugwena Maluleke, invited committee members to expand and intensify Education International’s Global Response campaign. He stressed that solidarity was vital in combatting the threat of commercialisation and privatisation of education, saying “We must join together to fight profit-making in education and education commodification.” The Committee’s Chair, Hussein Boujarra, further emphasised the importance of unity in the fight against this common threat.

Solidarity with contract teachers in Morocco

On the invitation of Education International’s member organisations in Morocco, committee members showed their solidarity with Moroccan contract teachers by joining a protest against the government’s cost-cutting policy of hiring precarious workers in the education sector. The Moroccan government is engaging increasing numbers of teachers on short-term contracts with poor employment conditions and without the labour rights enjoyed by civil servants. According to our member unions, next year these precarious workers will represent almost 40% of the education workforce (approximately 90 000 workers).

Positive evaluation of Education International’s 8th World Congress

Haldis Holst, Deputy General Secretary of Education International, reported to the committee on the results of a survey of member organisations, which portrayed a very positive evaluation of the World Congress. Committee members shared their feedback on the Congress, thanking Education International for the successful event and providing some constructive suggestions for the next Congress.

Executive Board update

The Deputy General Secretary provided an update from the 55th meeting of Education International’s Executive Board. The Secretariat had been mandated to progress the development of a strategic and operational plan. The plan will be based around four key areas: system, status, rights, and renewal.

Attendees were briefed on the Executive Board’s protocol for urgent action appeals and emergency. She encouraged the members of the Arab Committee to show solidarity with other organisations in need of political support, and to request support if needed.

Education International’s new campaign

Holst also highlighted Education International’s new campaign calling on countries to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Violence and Harassment - C190. She urged education unions to pressurise their governments to ratify this document. She commended Tunisia’s work on C190, as gender harassment at work is a prevalent issue in Tunisia, with education unionists taking action against it. Arab Committee members expressed full support for advocating in favour of the ratification of C190.

Arab Countries Cross Regional Structure’s activity report

Education International’s Dalila El Barhmi outlined some of the key work undertaken by Education International in Arab countries in 2019. This included: activities to advance quality early childhood education and early childhood education workers’ working conditions in Palestine; activities to support refugee education in Lebanon; and efforts to advance the campaign against privatisation and commercialisation in education in Morocco.

Updates on political developments and education union activities in Arab countries

Updates were also received from member organisations. Representatives from Algeria, Lebanon and Palestine outlined recent political developments and the popular movements for social democracy in their respective countries. Committee members from Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco and Tunisia also detailed their unions’ recent activities and challenges.

Statement on privatisation and commercialisation of and in education

The Committee also adopted on 30 January a statement on privatisation and commercialisation of and in education, renewing “its unconditional support for the positions of the  global trade union movement calling governments to provide free quality public education for all and adequate funding”.

Launch of report on privatisation in Morocco

On 31 January, committee members also attended the launch of new research commissioned by Education International in partnership with its Moroccan affiliates, entitled “Privatisation of Education in Morocco – A Multi-Speed Education System and a Polarised Society”.