Last week in Banjul, Gambia, Education International and the GTU laid the foundation of EI’s new initiative “Occupy Education”. The first stage of this pilot phase consisted of a needs assessment workshop the purpose of which was to identify current gaps and strategic areas for GTU’s future collaboration with EI, to enhance both organisations’ advocacy efforts.
The “Occupy Education” project arose from the difficult economic, political and social environment in which education sector unions operate at both national and international levels. In the current context of lingering economic crisis, international agencies and national governments have intensified and diversified attacks on public education and the teaching profession, reducing compensation while increasing workload. At the international level, development assistance for education is reducing dramatically and the education sector is no longer a priority area for investment.
The current scenario poses major challenges to teachers’ unions. On the one hand they must be aware of these challenges and on the other, be prepared to respond effectively. Teachers can no longer leave the global debate on education and the post 2015 agenda in the hands of self-proclaimed experts. Indeed, it is time to bridge the gap between the high level debate on education and the reality of the classroom, time for EI’s expertise to be fully taken into consideration in international discussions, as the voice of 30 million teachers worldwide.
EI’s new programme calls for coordinated, more and better evidence-based advocacy efforts and a more proactive role for teachers in defining education policies both at national and international levels. There is a critical need for stronger teacher’s organizations that“occupy education”.
In this regard, the programme focuses on enhancing strategic planning skills, boosting unions’ capacity to develop sound evidence-based policies, promoting the active engagement of teachers’ organisations in key education initiatives at national and international levels, and strengthening communication strategies to present a strong counter-narrative to the privatization and de-professionalization agendas.
To start with, the project will be carried out in three pilot countries in 2012-2013. Based on a solid assessment of the reality and challenges faced by the unions as well as the identification of tailor-made solutions, it will provide technical and financial support to carry out small-scale interventions in strategic areas for effective advocacy. In fact, this new initiative intends to move away from the traditional sequence of capacity building and development programmes: it is a demand-driven process which builds on participants’ needs and objectives above all, incorporating it into a global dynamic.
GTU took part in the first stage of this process last week, participating in a broad needs assessment with the support of EI, to identify current obstacles and possible solutions to fully fulfil its mission. Poor communication has been identified by GTU as a major obstacle to reaching out to its membership and to other teachers, in particular in remote areas. The lack of appropriate structures at regional level and of awareness among members and school representatives about GTU’s mission and activities negatively impacts its advocacy efforts. Improving its performance in this area would allow GTU to benefit from more grassroots participation in the elaboration and implementation of its strategic plan, and to collect field data to elaborate sound policy proposals on critical issues such as postings policy, allowances, or the living and working conditions of teachers. The reinforcement of GTU structures and staff’s capacity in research activities will constitutes a major challenge.
Building on the outcomes of this analysis, GTU will develop an action plan in the coming weeks and apply for a grant. The grant will consist of both technical and financial support from EI and its affiliates, to carry out the activities identified as crucial to improve advocacy strategy. If you are interested in this initiative and you want to know more about it, please contact Jefferson.Pessi@ei-ie.org and Sonia.Grigt@ei-ie.org.
Find out more about the Gambia Teachers Union.