Education International (EI) brought together affiliates and representatives of partner organisations, which were involved in the EFAIDS programme, for the Closing Conference of the project, on 16-17 May in Brussels. The participants reaffirmed their commitment to achieving the right to education for each child, and, as a consequence, their continued involvement in the fight to eradicate HIV and AIDS.
EI’s EFAIDS Programme is ending after five successful years of combined activity in Education for All (EFA) and education against the spread of HIV and AIDS. Life-saving skills training has been implemented by 80 member organisations in 48 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
In his welcome speech to participants, EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, emphasised that “it is clear to EI that the programme in which we are partners has made a difference,” calling the EFAIDS programme “EI’s flagship programme.”
He explained that the most important result of “this enlightening experience” was that it “has strengthened the role of our member organisations in teacher training and professional development.” This “stepping stone” will help teachers become better teachers and improve teacher quality worldwide.
Van Leeuwen also noted that “the programme has facilitated an on-going dialogue between education unions and governments. It is gratifying to see that the EFAIDS programme has shown governments that they can talk to unions and get something concrete out of it. And unions have learnt that governments are not always unreasonable.”
According to him, partnerships established by teacher unions both at international and national levels represent another of the programme’s clear key successes.
Van Leeuwen went on to share his belief that “the programme’s formula is so good that ultimately all potential and interested donors will be unable to resist the temptation to miss out the possibility of financing the next project,” which would help them gain politically. He added: “we have learnt a lot, and now we can use what we have learnt for the next step.”
Van Leeuwen firmly reiterated that teacher unions need “to exert maximum political pressure on governments,” to ensure that official development cooperation continues to be provided by governments, and that “the economic crisis must not be used by governments as an excuse to shift policies, and push for the privatisation of development cooperation.”
He finally thanked all staff, all affiliates, and all partners involved in the programme, especially the Education Development Centre(EDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Global Campaign for Education, as well as the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “one of the few donors in EI’s history which the organisation has found keen and easy to work with,”.
Participants at the closing Conference discussed the future involvement of teacher unions in education and HIV and AIDS policy, the importance of inclusion as the answer, how to better help HIV positive teachers continue working and training on EFA and HIV and AIDS education. They also debated working in partnerships in the future, especially with organisations like the Education Development Centre, the WHO, and education coalitions in the Global Campaign for Education, and with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.