Education International’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund is operational

published 11 June 2020 updated 10 January 2022

Education International has launched a COVID-19 Solidarity Fund to strengthen education trade unions following the COVID-19 pandemic. The solidarity of many member organisations has already provided contributions, and requests to provide support for union activities have been received from other affiliated unions.

Education International has mobilised the worldwide teacher trade union community to express solidarity towards those sister organisations most affected by the pandemic.

Education International: teachers and support staff are crucial for building free, inclusive, quality public education systems

“I would like to thank Education International member organisations that have contributed to our Solidarity Fund, as we are now in a position to accept requests for technical support and to finance affiliates that wish to play a leading role in ensuring public education systems emerge stronger from this crisis,” said the General Secretary of Education International, David Edwards.

He added: “This very serious crisis has highlighted the importance of public services and the preeminent role played by teachers and support staff in building free, inclusive, quality public education systems.”

Helping members respond to the immediate and long-term challenges raised by the pandemic

The COVID-19 Solidarity Fund has been set up to offer technical and financial support to member organisations affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. The aim of this fund has been to help them  respond to the immediate and long-term challenges raised by the pandemic and to support their trade union activities aimed at ensuring the rights of education staff are respected and public education systems emerge stronger from the crisis.

In fact, although the difficulties faced by education unions predate the COVID-19 crisis, they are now being felt much more keenly.

In times of crisis, governments are showing an increasing tendency to ignore social dialogue mechanisms.

Moreover, teachers have been required to use distance teaching, which in many cases has either not worked or has led to an increase in their workload. It is notable that, even when distance teaching and learning does work, it increases the social and school divide between students, benefitting the best students and those already enjoying the greatest advantages.

The privatisation of education is also increasing following the COVID-19 crisis, as businesses press strongly to have their distance teaching solutions adopted.

At the time of the virtual meeting of the development cooperation network, held on 12 May, development cooperation partners explained that their activity projects would have to be provisionally suspended or shut down. They said they were ready to adapt the planned projects to best meet their partners’ urgent needs.

However, the worldwide education trade union federation does not seek to replace humanitarian NGOs or governments responsible for ensuring quality education for everyone in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 4.

The types of activity supported to strengthen education trade unions

The Solidarity Fund is intended to help education organisations better represent their members by supporting them in drawing up their policies, providing advocacy, and strengthening their organisations.

For example, it could support the raising of awareness among members with consultation and communication.

It also helps organisations affiliated to Education International to fully play their role in the dialogue on education policy by, for example, helping undertake research or surveys or drawing up proposed education policies to strengthen education systems when schools reopen.

The Solidarity Fund can also support efforts to strengthen organisations by, for example, helping education unions reinforce the skills of their current members or organise recruitment campaigns to attract new members. It may involve supporting member organisations in setting up databases of their members.

Legal aid to members who are victims of sexual harassment, who have been excluded from schools, or who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis could also be covered.

Education International member organisations requiring this kind of support are cordially invited to submit their requests by 30 September 2020 at the latest. All requests will be subjected to a full, fair and transparent examination and approval process.

Education International will examine requests in association with its development cooperation partners and the regional offices. It strongly encourages joint requests from unions to help everyone work together for the benefit of all trade unions.