News - Country: Global - Theme: Status of Teachers
On 5 October, many celebrations took place around the world to pay tribute to the crucial role that teachers play in their communities and society.
At UNESCO headquarters, in Paris, France, EI used World Teachers’ Day (WTD) the opportunity to discuss the importance of teachers unions to improving the status of teachers and how crucial it is that we all mobilise together against deprofessionalisation and the increased privatisation of education.
Watch EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen’s World Teachers Day video message here
Dennis Sinyolo, EI Senior Coordinator of Education and Employment, delivered a speech at the WTD Symposium organised in Kampala by the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU). He recalled the 2012 WTD theme, “Take a stand for teachers”, and called for an audible, visible, concrete and immediate action to address the challenges facing teachers globally and locally, compounded by the financial and economic crisis: teachers’ shortage, deprofessionalisation, casualisation of the teaching profession and privatisation. He argued that the challenge is not just that of teacher numbers, but quality as well: “The quality of an education system cannot exceed that of its teachers,” he said. “Show me the quality of your teachers and I will tell you about the quality of your education system.”
France: broad issues tackled
One of the French education unions affiliated to EI, the Fédération nationale de l’enseignement, de la culture et de la formation professionnelle (FNEC.FP-FO), issued a statement reiterating its support for the American teachers in Chicago, who recently demanded employment security, no extension of workdays and school year, and no teachers’ evaluation based on students’ results.
On this worldwide celebration, the union highlighted the wide-reaching dimension of defending jobs and salaries, fighting against the implementation of iniquitous evaluation systems, defending status and collective guarantees, as well as defending the existence of trade unions, trade union rights, the right to strike and collective bargaining. FNEC.FP-FO demanded the implementation of 1966 ILO-UNESCO Recommendation, still topical today, and invoked the EI Resolution, “In favour of stable jobs with the appropriate status and quality education! No job cuts or redundancies among education staff!”. That Resolution was adopted at the 6th EI World Congress held in 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa, on the proposal of FNEC-FP.FO and SNETAA-FO.
FNEC-FP.FO further stressed that the beginning of the school year in France was marked by the loss of 12,850 teacher positions, and that 80,000 official posts have disappeared in the education sector since 2007, which the new government’s budget draft does not bring back. Many French universities go bankrupt because of the Law on the accountability of universities, already denounced by the 2007 EI World Congress held in Berlin, Germany.
Dominica: increase investment
In Dominica, the Asociación nacional de profesionales y técnicos de la educación (ANPROTED) seized opportunities offered by the 2012 WTD to promote teachers’ status. The trade union published a message of congratulations to all teachers in the world and Dominica, in the daily newspaper HOY dated 5 October. It reaffirmed the ANPROTED commitment to defend education and teachers’ interests.
The ANPROTED National Board also publicly supported and congratulated “Dominican teachers, from technical teachers to teacher educators and administrators, in public and private schools, in classrooms, in early childhood education, primary, secondary, vocational education and universities, for developing a noble and commendable job contributing to transforming society”.
It insisted that the Ministry of Education (MINERD) endorses the WTD slogan, “Support your teachers!”, by providing teachers, staff and technical teaching with better working and living conditions; improving their wages; giving them appropriate training; and protecting their rights. ANPROTED activists also demanded the enforcement of the Education Act No. 66'97, in order to invest more than four per cent of GDP in education in the 2013 budget to achieve quality public education for all.
They also urged national authorities to increase investment in educational research. They ask for a salary increase for teachers, teachers and technical education. The improvement of teachers’ quality of life, they explained, is directly proportional to the salary currently paid to teachers, which is clearly insufficient.
In his communiqué, Marvin Andall, President of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT), stressed that “a true teacher is not a person who just teaches academic lessons”, but “a guide who helps the students in each and every sphere of life”. According to him, teachers are “creators of the future”, whose importance in delivering a quality education is fundamental. He also recalled the tremendous job teachers’ unions do in seeking the best teaching and learning conditions for all and encouraged teachers to support each other as members of the same profession and society to become advocates for quality public education and progress.
African region: Tackle difficult work conditions
In the African region, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, EI affiliate Fédération nationale des enseignants du Congo (FENECO-UNTC) organised a conference to mark WTD. The FENECO-UNTC National Coordinator in charge of Finances and Solidarity, Marie Kalonda addressed the conference. In addition, Zéphyrin Ghilembe, FENECO-UNTC National Secretary in charge of schools sponsored by the Catholic Church talked about the trade union’s history. And the FENECO-UNTC General Secretary, Augustin Tumba Nzuji, spoke about “Taking a stand for teachers”.
In Mauritania, the Syndicat national de l’enseignement secondaire (SNES) deplored that this year’s WTD, a joyful day for teachers worldwide commemorating “the vital teachers’ contribution to education and development”, should happen in a “context where teachers are victims of arbitrary geographical transfers, [and] sanctioned for exerting their trade union rights”.
The education union condemns the absence of a national policy aiming at recruiting teachers, providing them with a proper training, and rehabilitating the status of the teaching profession, giving it back its former status, when it was one of the most honourable and rewarding professions in Mauritanian society.
On the occasion of WTD, SNES called on Mauritanian teachers to mobilise to see their rights respected and, in particular, to support colleagues who are victims of arbitrary transfers. It urged the Government to call off teachers’ forced appointment, and to take efficient measures aiming at enhancing all teachers’ status. It demanded that constructive negotiations between teachers’ unions and the Education Ministry be opened, and exhorted the public to advocate for teachers and free quality public education for all.
In Congo, the Fédération des travailleurs de la science, des sports, de l’enseignement, de l’information et de la culture (FETRASSEIC), together with the Higher Education Minister and UNESCO, organised celebrations in the capital city, Brazzaville.
The Minister of Primary, Secondary Education and Literacy and the Minister of Technical and Vocational Training and Employment attended the opening ceremony.
In his speech, the Higher Education Minister acknowledged that Congolese teachers work in difficult circumstances and their living conditions are still not acceptable. He stated that efforts must be made to enhance their living and working conditions, because teachers are unavoidable actors of the country’s development.
Four themes among global issues were tackled: Education for All (EFA) by 2015, teachers’ role in Congo; Taking a stand for teachers, which actions must be undertaken to improve their working conditions; how to reach the EFA goals and contribute to the development by acting with teachers; promoting teacher training and professionalism in education in Congo.
In Tunisia, the celebrations were held in Tunis. Primary, secondary and higher education trade unions organised a press conference, where an EI Representative, Agnès Bréda, and a French teacher unionist, Roger Ferrari from the Syndicat national des enseignants de second degré (SNES-FSU), were present.
In their speeches, all participants stressed the need to defend public schools as a compulsory, free, democratic, progressive education service to all children and students.
The General Secretary of the Syndicat général de l’enseignement de base (SGEB/UGTT), Dakher Taher, presented the agreement signed with the Education Minister that allowed him to cancel the strike order for 4 October. This agreement focuses on working conditions and premiums paid to teachers and head teachers.
The General Secretary of the trade union for secondary level teachers, ESMS/UGTT, Assaad Yacoubi, chose 5 October to launch a questionnaire targeting all secondary school teachers, aiming at better understanding educational failures and teachers' demands to reform and improve the Tunisian education system.
The Secretary General of the Fédération générale de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche scientifique (FGESRS/UGTT), Boujarra Hussein, also denounced the violence happening within universities. This violence often arises between Islamist students and students affiliated to a trade union. He firmly expressed his desire to see universities become more secure from now on.
Bréda and Ferrari reaffirmed that international solidarity is part of the fight against all fundamental right violations, including the right to quality public education for all and respect for trade union rights.
All over the world, teachers union strive for original ways to draw attention on this special day. In Portugal, the Federação Nacional dos Professores (FENPROF), in partnership with Delta Cafés, held a contest of drawings and paintings, in Portuguese schools, about the image that students have of their teachers.
In Haiti, the Union Nationale des Normaliens d’Haiti (UNNOH ) presented a plaque to 15 teachers in honour of their involvement, in the presence of teachers, pupils, parents, school leaders and administrative staff as well as representatives of CTU (Chicago) and PSC-CUNY (NYC), both member organisations of the American Federation of Teachers.
The Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA) opened the celebration of the WTD with the launch of the Education Report Card which evaluates the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports’ performance across four key areas for 2007-2012, against regional and international best practice. The report card awards a “Grade E – Could Do Much Better” to the Ministry and identifies concrete areas for improvement in inter-related areas such as teachers’ salary, spending on education, teachers’ labour rights and teachers’ participation in education decisions.
World Teachers’ day is also an occasion to meet policy makers and government officials to express teachers’ concerns. In Finland, the Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö (OAJ) invited 50 members of the national Parliament for breakfast at the Parliament House. Trade unionists presented them with a list of demands in education. Their main point was that, especially in times of crisis, one must care about education and invest in it. This action should be repeated each year on 5 October. The OAJ President, Olli Luukkainen, thanked the Prime Minister, Jyrki Katainen, for his promise around extra resources in relation to class sizes. In view of the municipal elections to come soon, Katainen announced that €80 million will be given to municipalities as extra funding if they make an effort to reduce class sizes.
In Delhi, India, the All India Primary Teachers’ Federation held a meeting in a school with teachers, union leaders, educational officers of Delhi Government and Cooperation as well as officials from national bodies. They discussed possible ways and means of improving the professional status and working conditions of teachers and increasing students’ achievements in this difficult economic situation.
On WTD, some unions also celebrated important achievements: the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) won a battle for better terms and conditions of service, after being one month on strike. On 3 October, the union received a circular outlining the government’s commitment to pay the collective agreement backdated to 1 July.
In Europe, Mimi Bjerkestrand, President of the EI affiliate, the Union of Education Norway, sent a protest letter to the Bahrain Embassy in London, United Kingdom, to support Bahraini colleagues.
“World Teachers’ Day is an opportunity to appreciate the dedication and contribution of teachers to quality education for all,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, so far in your country, Bahrain, teachers have been rewarded by arbitrary arrests, military prosecution, investigation, suspensions, dismissals, salary cuts, and torture for exercising their basic trade union rights.”
Bjerkestrand condemned the fact that leaders of the Bahraini Teachers’ Association were arrested during the pro-democracy protests in March 2011 for peacefully exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, in accordance with international human rights law and international labour standards.
“Union of Education Norway urges the Bahraini authorities to comply with international human rights standards, drop all charges against Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila Al Salman and ensure that due process is respected,” she wrote. “While celebrating World Teachers’ Day, we call on you to denounce the continuing repression of civil liberties and the criminalisation of teachers and unionists undertaking their legitimate human rights activities in Bahrain and elsewhere. Union of Education Norway asks the Bahraini embassy in London to forward this message to the appropriate authorities in your country.”
EI also repeatedly denounced the negative situation for education unionists in Bahrain.
WTD is an occasion of solidarity among unions all over the world. This year, Sheila Nunan, General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) issued a message of support to the Cambodia Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA). In its special edition WTD newsletter, the INTO saluted the efforts of its members in a difficult environment and pledged to continue to offer assistance to CITA in the future development of its recruitment and professional development programmes.
A group of activists working in solidarity with imprisoned Iranian teachers in a campaign named, “Be the Voice of Iranian Teachers”, also sent their best wishes to all teachers of the world on 5 October. They did it through a statement signed by about 300 individuals across the board and dozens of trade unions, associations and political parties.
The campaign, “Be the Voice of Iranian Teachers”, running through Facebook, has been able to the capture the attention of many international organisations and teacher unions across the world within a short period of time.
In Iran, activists say, teacher unions are banned and civil activist teachers are prosecuted and detained by the Government. Currently, all teacher unions in Iran are disassembled and many of their active members are either arrested or facing the threat of being arrested soon.
Among other issues, the campaign warns against the danger that the bitter experience of teacher Farzad Kamangar’s execution could repeat itself, and expresses deep concerns regarding the possible execution of three imprisoned teachers: Abolreza Ghanbari, Hashem Shabaninejad and Hadi Rashedi. It urges all international organisations to take immediate and coordinated action in order to repeal the execution orders.
Believing that detaining teachers is equivalent to enchaining thought and education, it also demands the immediate and unconditional release of the following imprisoned teachers: Mohammad Ali Agoushi, Mahmoud Bagheri, Rasoul Badaghi, Mohamad Daavari and Abdollah Momeni.
International organisations also celebrated WTD, in larger number than ever. Statements and speeches are available on the EI website dedicated to WTD.
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