Niger: Trade union unity on skill development and improved working conditions for teachers
With the help of the of Education International’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, the national unions that are members of Education International affiliate structure in Niger (IESNI) have collaborated in the organisation of an Inclusive Education Policy Forum, a skill development workshop for twenty-five female teachers, and the organisation of an awareness-raising roadshow.
The Inclusive Education Policy Forum
The Inclusive Education Policy Forum was held on 23 and 24 July in Niamey. This forum brought together 60 participants, all involved in education in Niger: education trade unions, civil society organisations linked to education, and representatives from UNESCO, the National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, the National Commission for Social Dialogue, and the ministries in charge of education.
The forum included presentations on Niger's education policy and the impact of COVID-19 on the education system and social dialogue.
This forum proved to be very useful for the trade unions for training and informing activists and for their census in the regions of Niger, explained Almoustapha Moussa, vice-coordinator of IESNI, the EI structure in Niger that incorporates the Syndicat national des agents de la formation et de l’éducation du Niger(SYNAFEN), the Syndicat national des enseignants de base(SNEB), the Syndicat national des enseignants du Niger(SNEN), the Syndicat national des travailleurs de l'éducation du Niger(SYNTEN) and the Syndicat national des travailleurs de l'enseignement de base(SYNATREB). Moussa explained that strong guidelines were formulated for all the education partners.
Dioffo Hamidou Finidjam, IESNI coordinator, gave the following reasons for organising this forum:
- The failure of the government to take education partners into account in the development of education policies.
- The lack of awareness by education partners of the vital importance of the role they need to play in the development of education policies.
- The fact that the teachers are not adequately trained to fully understand education policies or what strategies can be used to influence the government in policy development.
In addition, the IESNI member unions requested that the other education partners:
- Establish an inclusive formal framework for discussing education issues in the country.
- Participate in raising awareness among pupils, parents and teachers on the fight against COVID-19. This is to ensure high-quality education for everyone during and after the epidemic.
- Support trade unions' proposals and work closely together to guarantee the right to education through the training of all those involved in education and by carrying out advocacy actions and lobbying decision-makers.
The representatives of the ministries in charge of education were appreciative of this IESNI initiative but did not commit themselves. They said that they needed to provide feedback to their superiors.
Issoufou Arzika, IESNI's vice-coordinator, believed that the forum had encouraged education unions to undertake activities such as skill building for activists on the monitoring of education policies or courses to improve advocacy skills in order to help improve the living and working conditions of education and training personnel.
Skill development workshop for twenty-five female teachers
The second activity took place on 14 and 15 August, also in Niamey. It was a skill development workshop for twenty-five women trade union leaders from the West African Women in Education Network (WAWEN) in Niger.
IESNI now has a group of twenty-five female teachers who are well-equipped to provide training on gender-related harassment and its consequences, and gender-based violence in schools. Their skills have been enhanced by the activity" said Aliou Hassane Samba, IESNI's vice-coordinator. The knowledge acquired by the participants will be shared with the heads of the IESNI women's structures in Niamey and in every other region, as soon as the situation allows.
Dioffo Hamidou Finidjam, coordinator of IESNI pointed out that, in Niger, "women teachers outnumber men teachers, which means they often have to work in rural areas far from their families, where they are subject to all kinds of harassment".
He also deplored the fact that "in school and in everyday life, girls are constantly harassed. Creating a group of trainers on this topic will contribute to the fight against violence against women and girls, especially in schools.”
Organisation of an awareness-raising roadshow
The third trade union item on the agenda was the organisation of a campaign in the form of an awareness-raising roadshow, in accordance with the programme and the preventive measures laid down by the government.
The roadshow visited the capitals of all eight regions in Niger from 16 to 31 August and was attended by IESNI activists and some teachers in the regions visited. More than 150 teachers took part in some regions and it was also an opportunity to recruit new members.
The roadshow addressed the following issues:
- The recommendations of the Education Policy Forum.
- The impact of COVID-19 on the educational system.
- The unionisation of teachers.
- The active participation of teachers in trade union activities.
Sandi Mahamadou Ibrahim, Vice-coordinator of IESNI, also highlighted the concerns raised by teachers he met during these meetings, including: the recruitment of contractual teachers in the civil service to put an end to contractualisation in education, the payment of benefits to teachers, specifically financial implications related to promotion, reclassification, and teachers’ allowances, and the fact that the development of teachers careers was being hampered by the lack of regularisation of their automatic promotions and grading.