Education International affiliates from across the region came together to coordinate their work on the new global campaign and to urge governments to invest more in public education in their countries.
Education International’s Go Public! Fund Education campaign was launched in Latin America during an event held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 17 to 19 April. Participating education unions learned about the initiative and proposed opportunities for its implementation in their respective countries.
The event was opened by Combertty Rodriguez, the senior coordinator of Education International Latin America (EILA), and the Argentinian affiliates hosting the event. Yamile Sokolovsky from CONADU, Fabián Felman from CEA and Sonia Alesso from CTERA welcomed participants and highlighted the importance of developing joint initiatives against the privatisation and commercialisation of education.
EI Global vice president Roberto Leão stressed that this is “one of the most important moments in the fight to defend public education on our continent”
The event was attended by Angelo Gavrielatos, representing AEU-Australia, who highlighted that other countries see Latin America and its fight against the commercialisation of education as a benchmark and an inspiration.
“It’s time to invest in education workers, time to invest in public education. That is the demand we must make. Without teachers, there is no public education,” he emphasised.
In his address, Hugo Yasky, president of the EILA Regional Committee, spoke of the various battles that the affiliates have waged against the privatisation of education, stressing the importance of keeping up the fight: “We are discussing the commercialisation of education once again because it continues to be a matter of dispute, and it continues to be a matter of dispute because they haven’t been able to defeat us.”
Go Public! Fund Education
Following the opening addresses, David Edwards, EI General Secretary, presented the campaign, explaining the context that gave rise to the initiative, as well as its core aims and actions.
“We need a campaign that talks about the importance of public education, the importance of the teaching profession, and what policies can be implemented,” he explained.
Referring more specifically to the regional launch, he said that “in Latin America, people understand the importance of public education. Communities value their public schools and we have to build on this narrative.”
Following the presentation of the initiative, aimed at organising the world’s education unions to call for increased state funding for public education, participants shared their thoughts on the campaign and how it can be implemented in their respective countries.
Fátima da Silva, Vice President of the EILA Regional Committee, said: “Not only do we need more funding for public education, we also need to stop existing public resources being diverted towards private initiatives.”
José Oliveira of FENAPES also emphasised the importance of incorporating the issue of teachers’ persecution and stigmatisation into the campaign. “If we do not denounce the criminalisation of the teaching profession that is being driven by governments and the media, we are unlikely to have the conditions needed to make headway with the campaign,” he explained.
Other issues raised by participants included the need to adapt the campaign for higher education organisations, to discuss teachers’ working conditions that have led to staff shortages, and the advance of fiscal policies that limit resources for public education.
The first day of the meeting ended with a presentation by Gabriela Bonilla, researcher at the Education Policy Observatory of Latin America (OLPE), on the main trends in the process of privatising and commercialising education in Latin America.
Bonilla highlighted some key points for discussion such as “who is doing business with the right to education” by going down the route of loans from International Financial Institutions, which end up interfering in the design of our countries’ education policies.
She also called for “a questioning of the experiments that have indebted our countries for three decades and have us replicating a model that has failed and has resulted in educational exclusion. The formula imposed on us does not work”.
The campaign materials available for use in each country were also presented during the event hosted by CTERA, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.