Benin: New website strengthens union’s capacity and services to members
Thanks to financial support from Education International’s Regional Office for Africa (EIRAF), the Syndicat national des enseignants des écoles maternelles du Bénin (SYNAEM-Bénin) has built a website with a feature that enables educators to join the union and pay their dues online.
Strengthening the union’s ability to publish its own information
SYNAEM's website was created almost a year ago, says Elvis Gaétan Kponoukon, the union's general secretary. Now that the site is up and running, an external service provider updates it at the request of SYNAEM. The union is currently training an activist to update the online content without outside support, thereby saving time and money.
For the online articles, Kponoukon explains that SYNAEM has set up a training plan so that a group of about ten volunteer activists can write the content. The two-week training course is led by a professional journalist and combines theory and practice.
The articles posted on the site deal with issues specific to early childhood and to services to members, such as career development, the union leader stresses. In this way the site is used to communicate information quickly to all teachers.
Kponoukon points out that links to new articles can be shared via WhatsApp, with most teachers checking the union site on their smartphones.
Online payment of membership fees made possible
The site includes a module allowing teachers to pay their dues online. The idea came from two observations: on the one hand, collecting dues from teachers throughout in the country is difficult, and on the other hand, digital technology is developing everywhere, allowing the use of a smartphone. In addition, remote payment platforms (mobile money) have evolved considerably in recent years in Benin.
This online membership facility complements the traditional method of signing up, which involves filling in a membership form and paying a sum of money in cash (2,000 CFA francs, or 3 euros) to a local activist. This payment, made at the school level, must then pass through the communal and then regional levels to reach the national structure of the union. “A long and tedious process,” according to Kponoukon.
Each teacher who makes an online payment receives an invoice in lieu of a membership card. SYNAEM is informed immediately and forwards the information to its local representatives and sends a welcome message to the new member, as well as an online questionnaire to gather precise information on the member's personal and administrative situation.
For the moment, the number of people who have used this system remains small, around 150 out of the 3,700 members of SYNAEM. For the SNAEM secretary general, it seems that young teachers, adept at new technologies, are the most enthusiastic. Conversely, people living in remote rural areas are put off by the difficulties of accessing the Internet.
Clear advantages for the union in terms of targeted communication
For SYNAEM, this system has many advantages, says Kponoukon. In particular, the information collected by the forms can be analysed, sorted and used for different purposes. It is thus possible to address only members of a given age group, or of a specific geographical area, or fulfilling a specific criterion in terms of assignment or career.
The Beninese union intends to further exploit the potential offered by this database, which makes it possible to send each member the information that interests or concerns him or her.