Education International
Education International

EI President steps down after election to federal public office

published 22 December 2009 updated 22 December 2009

Australian teacher and trade unionist Susan Hopgood takes on the presidency of Education International following the resignation of EI President Thulas Nxesi, who has been elected to the National Assembly of the Republic of South Africa.

Mr. Nxesi told the officers of EI at their autumn meeting that, as a Parliamentarian, he will have to devote all his time and energy to advocating for his constituents and his party, the African National Congress. For that reason, he made the difficult decision to step down as President of EI, a position he has held since the 2004 World Congress in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and to which he was re-elected in 2007 at the Berlin Congress. The officers of EI paid tribute to Mr. Nxesi, noting that he has served the cause of teacher trade unionism at the national and international level with tremendous heart and dedication. His long history of anti-apartheid activism began in the student movement and continued through the labour movement. Born in 1959 in the Eastern Cape, Thulas completed his Bachelor of Arts at Fort Hare University and his Bachelor of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1987, he earned his Higher Education Diploma from the University of South Africa. He began his career teaching geography at Ikusasa Senior Secondary School in Tembisa, and was later promoted to head of the social sciences department. Thulas was a founding member of the National Education Union of South Africa, and eventually became its General Secretary. He went on to lead NEUSA in unity talks leading to formation of SADTU, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, the first national, non-racial education union in the country. As General Secretary since 1995, he has led massive strikes and campaigns in defence of trade union rights for teachers and quality education for all. “It’s the end of my career with EI but not the end of our deep friendships and solidarity,” Thulas said. He thanked the staff and political leaders of EI: “I salute you and offer my gratitude for your collegial support and my promise of ongoing commitment to the values and goals of Education International. It has been a pleasure and an honour working with you.” The EI Executive Board voted unanimously that Susan Hopgood, EI’s longest-serving Vice-President, should assume the position of President until the 6th World Congress to be held in Cape Town in 2011. A former secondary school mathematics teacher, Ms Hopgood rose through the ranks to become a national leader of the Australian Education Union, which affiliates 181,000 teachers and education workers in public pre-schools, schools and vocational education institutions throughout Australia. Elected AEU Federal Secretary in 2006, she is the first woman to achieve that post. “Susan brings a wealth of experience to her new position,” Mr. Nxesi said. “We are fortunate to be able to count on activists like Susan, with such skills and integrity to lead EI.” First elected to the EI Executive Board in 2001, Ms Hopgood has served as a member of the Finance and Women’s Committees, and as Chair of the Constitution and By-Laws Committee. She was Vice-Chairperson of EI’s Asia-Pacific Regional Committee from 2000 to 2006, and Vice-President of the Council of Pacific Education from 1998-2006. Not limiting her commitments to education unionism, Susan is also extremely active in the broader Australian labour movement. She serves as a Vice-President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and is a member of several of its committees. Executive Board member S. Eswaran was elected to take Ms Hopgood’s position as EI Vice-President for Asia Pacific. As General Secretary of the All-India Primary Teachers’ Association, he leads 2.3 million members. “After 50 years of continuous trade union service, I now have the opportunity to be a leader on a global level, and to work for improving the professional development and the status of teachers, “ he said. “My areas of particular interest are HIV/AIDS, child labour, research studies, strengthening organisations at regional level, and development cooperation.” Eswaran outlined three future directions for EI to pursue: • Development of solidarity to make unions strong; • Emphasis on the environment, and raising awareness among youth • Making gender balance a reality in EI, in schools and in society. Eswaran credited the hard work of AIPTF in enabling him to reach a position of leadership at the international level. Other changes at EI: Haldis Holst of the Union of Education Norway (UEN) assumes the position of EI Vice-President for Europe, and Patrick Gonthier of UNSA Education, France, moves to an open seat on the Executive Board.

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 32, December 2009.