Education is crucial in developing democracy and citizenship in all societies, nowhere more so than in countries where governments do not fully respect the most basic human and trade union rights. Quality education for all, free from any kind of discrimination, can help immensely in building democracy in non-democratic, less-democratic countries, and those in the process of democratization.
Teachers who are well trained and respected and who can exercise the right to organize themselves to defend quality education and professional status, including working conditions, can contribute to the democracy building process.
Quality education for all and achieving building independent and strong or representative teacher unions: These were the two main reasons prompting delegates of the 5th EI World Congress, held in Berlin July 2007, to mandate the EI General Secretary to develop and implement a special programme to support teachers and education unions in Middle East countries.
The MENA (Middle East and North Africa) programme has now entered its planning phase. Consultations, discussions, and meetings involving all cooperating unions interested in this programme are essential elements in this process, which will begin on 14 December in Brussels.
In the planning stage, there is need for consultations with the EI affiliates that have been working in partnership with teacher organisations in the so-called ‘MENA region’. These MENA organisations also need to be consulted regarding best strategies to implement the programme in their respective countries.
Some unions in the region have been working in partnership with cooperating partner unions within the EI Development Cooperation programmes for quite some time already. This new programme will build on these efforts.
As this new initiative covers several countries in the geographic region or area of the Middle East and North Africa, a consortium of cooperating partner unions will be established and coordinated by the EI. This also enables bringing together the experiences from current bilateral cooperation projects.
The first steps in the field will focus on gathering information about teacher organisations, the status of teachers, the legal framework pertaining to trade unions and teachers and, above all, possibilities for assisting in the improvement of teacher training and the learning process.
The first planning meeting will take place in Brussels on December 14th, just after the annual Development Cooperation meeting. Planning and implementation of the programme will continue on from this initial meeting, 14 December. A very important early phase will be assessments of needs based on consultations with the unions in MENA countries as to the type of projects needed.