Special meeting of the EI African Regional committee
From 10-11 February, a special meeting of the EI African Regional committee took place on the side-lines of the African Union Heads of State in Addis Ababa. The EI African Regional Committee released a statement calling on Heads of State to fulfil their obligations as guarantors and providers of quality public education for all, highlighting the threat posed by privatisation to its achievement. It also drew attention to Bridge International Academies which is emblematic of what is wrong with privatisation. A research paper by Curtis Riep, “What do we really know about Bridge International Academies?”, was also released on the day. The paper reviews seven studies on BIA and other relevant literature. This event provided an opportunity for direct action, lobbying and mobilisation by EI member organisations. It contributed significantly to the further development and planning of a region-wide response to the threat of privatisation in Africa.
Workshop on school-related gender-based violence in Ethiopia
In the framework of the EI/United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) joint initiative entitled “Teachers Unions Take Action to stop school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV)”, a learning event was organised from 25-27 February in Addis Ababa. Thirty-one representatives from 16 unions in 9 countries, three EI/EIRAF staff, two representatives of partner organisations (National Education Association (NEA/USA) and Union of Education Norway (UEN), and two UNGEI representatives attended the event. Participants discussed the prevalence of the phenomenon and the role of teachers and their organisations in addressing SRGBV; discussed ways of creating gender sensitive learning and teaching environments; the damaging reputation of the teaching profession and teachers’ unions due to the many stories on SRGBV; and the need for a greater commitment from union leaders. They also shared successful strategies and actions tested by involved unions and which could be replicated by others, and identified new opportunities to help unions sustain their efforts to eradicate SRGBV beyond the duration of the project.
Training on quality education and trade unionism in DRC
From 18-24 March, education unions affiliated with EI in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) evaluated the use of “study circles” to improve the quality of education and promote trade unionism in schools.
After the programme had been running for one year, EI and its member organisations in the DRC, namely the Centrale de l’Education Nationale et de la Recherche Scientifique(CSC-Enseignement), the Fédération nationale des enseignants du Congo and the Syndicat des Enseignants du Congo(SYECO), carried out an initial evaluation. The scheme is designed to promote trade union unity and is jointly financed by the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ)/Canada, Lärarförbundet/Sweden and EI. The programme is based on study circles and aims to introduce a culture of dialogue into the workplace to deal with problems in the teaching profession, a concept that has been tried on every continent. In Africa it is called PanAf (the Pan-African Programme) and is made up of 18 French-speaking and English-speaking countries.
In three of the six regions of DRC, Kinshasa, Matadi and Mbuji-Mayi, the 30 facilitators met to carry out a detailed assessment of the difficulties encountered, requirements, suggestions for tackling problems, and so on.
The “study circles” have led to a very welcome culture of dialogue and promote the spread of trade unionism. In study circles teachers can discuss the problems they face and work out solutions to them. This is similar to the African tradition of the meeting places known as “meeting trees”, and at the very beginning of the trade union movement: let’s get together and rely on our own resources.
Among the main problems reported by the facilitators was the fact that some heads of institutions were afraid of the unions and wary of this new type of assembly. There was practically no union life in some schools before as officials refused to let the teachers get together at all. Through dialogue and meetings with union officials, some of these restrictions have been lifted, but not all.
Workshop for young teacher activists from Ivory Coast/Senegal
A workshop funded by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) brought together 24 participants from Senegal and the Ivory Coast from 1-4 April in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, for the second phase (2018-2020) of the “Young teachers for quality education and effective unions” Programme. This programme aims to strengthen unionisation, trade union unity and the involvement of young activists in trade union leadership. During the workshop, the young teacher activists exchanged ideas and expanded their knowledge on a number of issues relating to attaining quality education for all. In addition to trade union unity, participants also discussed the following issues: gender at school and within trade unions; repeating years; striking; trade union communication; unionisation; and private schools.
Global Response’s research on the privatisation of education in Cote d’Ivoire
On 5 April, a piece of research commissioned as part of EI’s Global Response to the commercialisation and privatisation of education was released in Abidjan. “Etude sur la privatisation de l’école en Côte d’Ivoire”, by Dr KOUTOU N’Guessan Claude and Dr GOI BI Zamblé Théodore examines the privatisation of education in Cote d’Ivoire. In contrast to the two decades following independence, during which time the State invested in the expansion of primary, secondary and technical education, the economic crisis of the 1980s and the advent of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) led to a drastic reduction in state funding for public schools in Cote d’Ivoire. Retreating from its obligations as a guarantor and provider of public education, the State supported the mushrooming of private institutions. The result is that in some localities there are 10 times more private schools than public schools.
Learning Through Play workshop in Kenya
From 8-11 April, a Learning Through Play (LTP) workshop was organised in Mombasa for the benefit of 25 early childhood education (ECE) teachers, members of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT). The ECE teachers were trained in the LTP methodology and theory, as well as in developing teaching and learning materials, using locally available and affordable materials. The LTP workshop also addressed the issue of teacher professional qualifications and the fight for decent work through the unionisation of marginalised education workers. EI shared experience on the need for teachers, through their unions, to take up the lead in the development and implementation of policies on professional standards.
The event was attended by EIRAF and UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) representatives in an attempt to form a LTP partnership, jointly working towards achieving the objectives of the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) cluster on ECE.