The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive loss of human life and an unprecedented challenge to public health, education systems and the economy in the Arab region. Education unions remain committed to quality education, advocating for their students and members and rebuilding with equity.
This commitment was made evident during the 5th Education International Conference of Arab Countries Cross Regional Structure (ACCRS). The online conference, which was held July 8-9, debated and adopted a resolution on Rebuilding Education in Arab Countries: Teachers and their Unions Shaping the Future.
Discussion and vote around the framing resolution
The document approved by the conference regretted that during the COVID pandemic “emergency measures taken in some countries have gone beyond what was necessary to protect public health and have been used to restrict freedom and the exercise of democracy, including limiting freedom of expression and freedom of association, restricting independent activity, and silencing critical voices”.
Tackling Arab educators’ main concerns
Among their key concerns, delegates to the conference called on governments in the region to: respect and protect basic human and trade union rights, such as freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining; ensure quality education for all; support democracy, including active citizenship, critical thinking, and academic freedom; and ensure that education unions are involved in all stages of education planning and policy making.
The resolution goes on to reaffirm that:
- The support of education unions in the cross-region for solidarity and mutual assistance in the struggle for human and trade union rights and democracy;
- Support women and others who may be under-represented. Remove barriers to the participation of women and young members in union leadership and decision making;
- The commitment to independent trade unionism and to sharing experiences and cooperating on union renewal so that education unions can become stronger and more representative;
- Solidarity with education unions in other regions and globally based on common trade union values;
- The determination to fight for fundamental shifts in the balance of power and the distribution of resources to achieve a fairer and more sustainable world in the post-pandemic.
Delegates expressed solidarity with colleagues in Arab countries, such as Yemen, Bahrain, and Palestine, facing conflicts and disputes and welcomed Education International’s ACCRS help to cure injustices perpetrated against them.
Education International’s ACCRS Strategic Plan
Education International’s ACCRS Coordinator, Dalila El Barhmi, also presented the ACCRS Strategic Plan, based on Education International’s strategic directions.
She laid out six key work priorities:
- Rights and democracy
Panel discussion on rebuilding education in Arab countries
A panel discussion on teachers and their unions shaping the future of education in Arab countries was also held, with representatives from unions from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia reflecting on how education unions contributed and can contribute to rebuild education in Arab countries post-COVID-19.
Panel participants explained how quality education for all and effective learning can be ensured by:
- Investing in education and capacities, as well as decent work for educators;
- Promoting and designing education policies through social dialogue and respect of freedom of association and collective bargaining;
- Focusing on specific professional development and training. Teachers must be trained to use remote education tools properly;
- Ensuring education financing. They reasserted that education is a fundamental right, not a commodity. The right to education should be accessible to all, including online education, and teacher jobs should not be made precarious, as is particularly the case in Morocco.