Education International
Education International

Crucial role of Teacher Unions’ voices in HIV/AIDS prevention worldwide

published 18 May 2011 updated 23 May 2011

The EI EFAIDS Closing Conference, held in Brussels on 16-17 May, came to an end with the session "On the path to 2015." Affiliates and partner organisations representatives from far and wide reflected on lessons learned as well as on teacher unions’ role and sustainability within Education for All (EFA) and AIDS education.

Emanuel Fatoma, coordinator in the EI African Office in Ghana, highlighted the EFAIDS programme importance in improving social dialogue between trade unions and governments: “This kind of project helps unions to start working together and promotes union capacity building within the countries. Additionally, the programme facilitates social dialogue between teacher trade unions and Education ministries.”

Reinforcing this key idea, Maouloud Ben Kattra from Mali stated: “Through the EFAIDS Programme, Malian teacher unions created a strong coalition for the first time in their history. We realised that strong structures are important in achieving our goals.”

He added:  “We can be proud of the major role played defending teachers’ interests. Trade unions have become development stakeholders, taking ownership of a topic that before seemed to belong exclusively to NGOs.”

Pointing to EFAIDS prevention work in schools, Fátima Aparecida da Silva from CNTE in Brasil, went on to say that the programme “has allowed EI to pass from theory at global level to practice at grassroots level, putting more emphasis on pedagogy in unions’ day-to-day work.  It has also involved new stakeholders, such as the Health ministries, enriching the collaborative process and raising its effectiveness. “

This building of partnerships with governments has been a fundamental achievement of the EI EFAIDS programme. Astrid Mac Donald from Suriname outlined this by explaining how the former Minister of Education in Suriname “was able to call all members of the programme by their first names.”

However, Shashi Bala Singh, from the EI Regional Office in Asia, raised concerns about the programme’s sustainability: “Should we not start taking EFAIDS as part of unions’ mission and commitment, and not just as a single project? It should be within the union programme now, shouldn’t it? Must we convince our unions to increase membership dues and capacities or do we want to stay dependent on external support? Unions must continue broadening the scope of their activities.”

Nicolás Richards, EI Solidarity and Development Senior Coordinator, responsible for the EFAIDS Global Project, reiterated the commitment expressed by EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen in his opening remarks, namely, that EI will continue to encourage efforts by its members to seek technical and, where possible, structural assistance for the programme.

Delphine Sanglan, EI Project Officer for the EFAIDS Programme, at the closing of the Conference  requested:  “Before we leave, and sadly bring this project to its end, we must talk about how stakeholders can move on. We need a concrete commitment, rather than only recommendations. Commitments are much stronger, so we want each and every one of you to make a commitment as both a trade union and a partner.”

Participants, therefore, were invited to finish the conference by expressing their commitment to support teacher unions’ valuable work on HIV/AIDS prevention and Education For All advocacy. They promised to strengthen networks, looking for new ways of financing them and incorporating the issue within the broader union work strategy across the world.

Launched in January 2006, the EFAIDS Programme was an initiative of EI and its partners the WHO (World Health Organisation), EDC (Education Development Centre) and funded by the Dutch Government. It combined the efforts of teachers unions in advocating for Education For All (EFA) at national level with their commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention in schools locally.