The call was made in the framework of the IX Regional Conference on Public Education and Indigenous Peoples convened by Education International Latin America.
The event was attended by over 150 education workers who travelled to Asuncion, Paraguay from Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina, and Paraguay .
The IX Regional Conference on Public Education and Indigenous Peoples, convened by Education International Latin America (EILA) and its affiliates, ended on Wednesday the 10th of august, with the reading of the manifesto jointly prepared by its participants, in which they make an emphatic call to the governments of the region to put an end to the policies of “invisibilisation and neglect affecting Indigenous peoples in education.
The document demands and reflections that synthesise the dialogue of over two days, in which education workers from Indigenous peoples in Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina and Paraguay compared their experiences and found many similarities.
The chief demands included public policies that guarantee access to equitable, free and quality education for all Indigenous peoples in the region; the ratification and implementation, in all countries, of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples; and mechanisms for the participation of Indigenous communities as a prerequisite for decision-making related to Indigenous education policy.
They also called for the historic demands of their peoples to be met, such as access to essential resources like drinking water, health services and the right to their ancestral lands, as well as the protection of their territories from land devastation, deforestation, and the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources.
As for the demands directly regarding education, they called for public policies ensuring connectivity that covers rural and urban areas of Latin American countries without distinction and the incorporation of technological tools for learning and community development; better educational infrastructure, appropriate teaching materials, school meals and quality libraries for educational centres in Indigenous communities, along with other demands included in the full document.
In addition to the Indigenous education workers, the event was attended by Fátima Silva, vice president of the EILA Regional Committee; Combertty Rodríguez, EILA senior coordinator; Roberto Leão, EI vice president; Eladio Benitez, general secretary of UNE-SN (National Union of Education Workers - National Union, Paraguay) and Juan Gabriel Espínola, representing OTEP-A (Organisation of Education Workers of Paraguay - Authentic).
Trade unions defending Indigenous struggles
The group work on the second day focused on considering the demands that Indigenous peoples can make of their trade union organisations, and the areas in which they believe their structures could improve their work.
Among the main points put forward, on which almost everyone agreed, was the need for the recognition of plurilingualism within trade unions, and for trade union organisations to support and stand alongside Indigenous peoples in their struggles and their negotiations with governments.
The need was stressed to incorporate Indigenous peoples’ representatives within trade union structures at every level and to ensure that their viewpoints are always taken on board. The importance was underlined of demanding that governments fulfil the rights of Indigenous education workers.
Finally, the participants asked their organisations to provide political and trade union training for education workers from their communities. They stressed the value of having meetings convened by trade unions sigh Indigenous teachers in each country.
“These decisions depend on the political will of each affiliate to implement the proposals put forward as a conclusion of this event. EILA alone cannot implement these recommendations; it must go through the national organisations. Trade unions must be an organising vehicle for Indigenous peoples,” concluded Combertty Rodriguez, EILA regional coordinator, at the end of the activity.