One year after it was refused registration by the Ministry of Justice, the National Teachers Association (NTA) is still deprived of legal status in Ethiopia.
In accordance with a new but rather restrictive law on charities and societies, the NTA founding members’ representatives will have to submit a fresh application for registration. This process may turn out to be difficult for the NTA members in a repressive context, made worse by the upcoming national elections in May 2010.
For example, the law provides that the founding members of an association should represent at least five out of the nine existing regional states in Ethiopia. this provision was used against the NTA, as the Ministry of Education maintained that NTA only represents teachers in a few regions.
Travelling in Ethiopia is difficult, and a one way trip to Addis Ababa from remote regions such as Gambella and Benishangul takes at least three days; three days is the maximum leave teachers are entitled to (including weekends). In the past, the registration process requested the founding members to come regularly to the capital as a group to provide additional information, sign additional papers or any other cumbersome administrative procedure. Such regular and long absences cannot be imposed on teachers.
In addition, taking part in the NTA registration process may be considered by government officials as a disloyalty which could lead to reprisals such as transfers and lack of promotion. Another currently passed law, the Anti-Terrorist-Bill, also contains many open ended provisions which could be used against teachers involved in the set-up of a new teacher association.
The founding members of the NTA are currently assessing the best ways to register their association while minimizing the impact for the teachers who will expose themselves in taking part.