Ethiopia: Education union’s plea for peace
During the Tigray war in Northern Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) condemned the damage and disruption inflicted on students, teachers and the education system. They called on relevant public authorities to put an immediate halt to the armed conflict, and highlighted the role of peace education in bringing about peaceful societies.
Devastating impact of the war on education
The Tigray War was an armed conflict that lasted from 3 November 2020 to 3 November 2022. It was primarily fought in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia between the Ethiopian federal government and Eritrea on one side, and the Tigray People's Liberation Front on the other.
During this conflict, “schools were closed or even destroyed, no education was provided and teachers were affected,” deplored ETA President and Education International Executive Board member Yohannes Benti.
“The war had a huge impact not only on schools, but also on social services like health,” he added.
Union actions for peace
ETA wrote letters to the relevant authorities to stop the war and sit down and negotiate, he explained.
Confronted with the displacement of teachers from the Tigray region to other areas of Ethiopia, like the capital city Addis Ababa, ETA requested the government to pay their salaries.
However, in some cases, that was not possible, Benti said, adding that the union “tried to help them financially in solidarity”.
He went on to note that, near some borders of the Tigray region, like in the Amhara region, not only schools were destroyed, but also teacher’s houses. Here again, ETA brought as much financial support as possible to affected teachers.
“So, we tried to stop the war, we reported the matter to Education International’s Africa regional committee,” the ETA leader stressed. “They discussed the matter twice and adopted two resolutions on this conflict each year.”
While ETA submitted a report to the concerned authorities of the Ethiopian government, the war continued, he said. On August 31st, ETA sent a press release to the local media to request the parties to stop the war and negotiate.
Benti welcomed the action of the parties, on November 2nd, to agree to stop the war and negotiate.
Invest in education
He also explained that he considers that “investing in education is the best option to bring peace, because it means supporting children to learn about tolerance, coexistence, and peace”.
For Benti, the value of education is “enormous” and investing in quality education is “the best remedy to bring peace”.
He concluded: “it is important that [the value of education] is well researched, well discussed and that we continue to advocate for investment in education”.