Delegates at the EI World Congress in Cape Town have elected a new team of education trade unionists from around the world to lead the organisation over the next four years.
EI's quadrennial World Congress, which is taking place in South Africa from 22-26 July, has brought together 1,800 participants from education unions in 154 countries.
On the first day of Congress, a mix of incumbents and new candidates were voted into office: Susan Hopgood of AEU (Australia) was re-elected President. Irene Duncan-Adanusa of GNAT (Ghana), S. Eswaran of AIPTF (India), Haldis Holst of UEN (Norway) and Jucara Dutra Vieira of CNTE (Brazil) were all re-elected to the office of Vice-President for their respective regions. Dennis Van Roekel from the NEA (United States of America) was newly elected as the Vice-President for the North America and Caribbean region, while Fred Van Leeuwen of AOb (Netherlands) was re-elected General Secretary.
The new EI officers start their four-year term at time when public sector unions around the world face growing challenges.
Speaking after his election, Vice-President-elect Dennis Van Roekel said: “It is an honour to represent educators across North America and the Caribbean as an EI officer because the challenges we face at home on issues like collective bargaining, raising student achievement, and adequate funding resonate around the world.” He went on to add, “NEA's involvement internationally is based on the fact that in a global society, we must pursue a common course of action."
With a Congress theme of ‘Building the Future Through Quality Education’, the quadrennial event opened with addresses from officials including South Africa’s Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, and UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova. The choir from local Wellington High School brought the student voice to the crowd in song.
In her opening remarks, EI President Susan Hopgood said: “Public education is under unprecedented attack, both in countries that built their prosperity on public education, and in those that still aspire to achieve quality education for all.
“Education remains the key to overcome poverty and injustice, and to achieve peace, social cohesion, and human dignity in this world, but the greatest obstacle to the achievement of quality education for all remains the lack of political will of governments,” Hopgood added.
In 2000, the United Nations set the Millennium Development Goal of providing universal primary education by 2015. At that point, some 105 million primary age children were not in school. While that number has dropped to 67 million today, estimates indicate that by the 2015 target date, 56 million children of primary school age will still not be in a classroom.
It is within this framework that EI began the work of the sixth World Congress.