Education International
Education International

Ethiopian teacher leaders reunited with exiled union president

published 28 July 2006 updated 28 July 2006

Unable to meet in their home country due to high risk to their personal safety, leaders of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA) gathered in the Netherlands last week, thanks to support from Education International and member organizations.

Facing ongoing government repression and trumped-up charges that carry a potential death sentence, some ETA leaders have been forced to seek sanctuary abroad. All have been restricted in their ability to meet and conduct trade union business in the normal way. Therefore, the Dutch teachers’ union (AOb) hosted a series of meetings in Utrecht in conjunction with Education International and the National Union of Teachers of England and Wales (NUT).

The ETA leaders were heartened by the gesture and glad of the opportunity to meet with their president for the first time in many months. Later, they also were able to discuss their plight with Kari Tapiola, Executive Director for Standards, and other key staff of the International Labour Organization.

“Our morale and energy to act is greatly enhanced with the support and helpful suggestions offered by Mr. Tapiola, other ILO representatives and our international colleagues,” said Gemoraw Kassa, ETA General Secretary.

Together the teacher trade unionists decided to make a detailed report on the ongoing abuses against Ethiopian teachers to the ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Status of Teaching. As well, they will launch the second official complaint to the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association against the Ethiopian government.

ETA President Dr. Taye Woldesmiate, who was incarcerated for six years and adopted as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, called on the government to “stop labeling teachers and education institutions as enemeies of the state.” Instead, he said, “it should work with teachers toward much needed improvements to the quality of public education in Ethiopia.”

“Our goal is to demonstrate to the government of Ethiopia that the ETA is not alone,” said EI Deputy Secretary General Janice Eastman. “Teachers around the world are standing together with this courageous and committed group of colleagues. We will continue working to raise their case at the highest levels.”

EI is urging the Ethiopian government to respect international law regarding freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, to acknowledge the ETA as the legitimate voice of the teaching profession, and to engage in dialogue to enhance education for all of Ethiopia’s children.

For a backgrounder on the struggle of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association, please go to: http://www.ei-ie.org/en/article/show.php?id=42&theme=rights

For EI’s earlier Urgent Action Appeal on Ethiopia, please go to: http://www.ei-ie.org/en/urgentactionappeal/show.php?id=4&country=ethiopia

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