Education International
Education International

Organizing and Development Training Program for Unions in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority

published 22 October 2008 updated 22 October 2008

From October 19 to 21, 43 regional leaders of the General Union of Palestine Teachers (GUPT) participated in an organizing and training workshop designed to launch a series of training programs for the union to run through 2009.

Participants engaged in a variety of activities and discussions to determine their strengths and challenges they face in improving the GUPT’s ability to represent teachers and improve education in the Palestinian Authority.

The workshop was a collaborative initiative of the GUPT and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) within the context of the EI’s four-year project to work with teachers’ unions in the Middle East. Jan Eastman, EI Deputy General Secretary, addressed participants and attended the workshop as an observer.

Many of the GUPT’s biggest challenges relate to financial issues. Teachers in Palestine are paid well below the poverty level. Many are forced to take second and third jobs to support their families or to continue their education goals. Over the past few years, many teachers have gone unpaid for months on end. Through strikes and other actions, the GUPT has been successful in restoring back-salaries and securing modest raises for many teachers. However, these financial issues have made it difficult for the union to develop a secure dues base for its work.

The workshop in Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority, first focused on approaches and plans to help improve the quality of the union’s representational and organizing capacity at local and school levels. This program theme will be continued in training of organizing trainers scheduled for early next year.

The second seminar theme was an introduction to the teacher union’s role in professional development. This section of the workshop used discussion and role-playing techniques to introduce principles of quality professional development and its potential to help improve classroom management and content. It also emphasized how union-based professional development activities can attract new members to the union and strengthen the loyalty of present members. For 2009, in addition to organizing training workshops, the GUPT and the AFT will conduct parallel seminars to train trainers as professional development specialists.

To conclude the workshop, GUPT General Secretary Jameel Shehada and International Secretary Hazem Qumsieh, along with Jan Eastman and AFT national Vice President Lee Cutler, presented participants with certificates of participation.