Social justice and gender equity were just two issues addressed at the EI workshop, “Reviving union cooperation to strength teachers’ voice”, for its Nepalese member organisations from 10-12 October.
The 31 participants from the Nepal National Teachers’ Association (NNTA) and the Nepal Teachers’ Association (NTA) also debated girls’ education, and participated in training and workshops on women’s rights and women in union leadership, learning how to promote inclusivity and equity by strengthening legal instruments, how to fight social instability, the importance of appointing more women teachers and creating girl-friendly schools, and of increasing women’s participation in decision-making structures in society generally.
Participants also acknowledged the need to develop teacher unions’ capacity. They noted that poor skills in collective bargaining lead to an inability to exercise trade union rights for teachers, to bring education problems to the authorities, to influence proactively policy matters, and to unite the teacher movement and develop professionalism among teachers.
Quality public Education for All
The trade union members agreed that quality in education requires a quality environment, quality investment and quality teachers.
They deplored the fact that Nepalese education policy is re-active and determined by immediate needs and donor-oriented. It is test result-oriented and not available or suitable for all. It is also against trade union participation. They declared that education policy needs to be skills-oriented and vocational, scientific and technical, available to all and appropriate to the Nepalese social context.
Geographical conditions, political interference, lack of training and support for of teachers, absence of stakeholders in decision-making processes, the reduction of public funding for education, the ineffective implementation of the code of ethics, the absence of a constitutional commission for teacher appointments and a deteriorating image of public education were identified as the main obstacles to achieving quality public education for all.
The participants mentioned the need to develop responsibility, from policy development to implementation, developing conflict resolution, reducing the causes of teacher absenteeism, improving observance of the teachers’ code of ethics and investing more in infrastructural development as key requirements to develop a better system of education.
Attaining the organisations’ demands
Participants explained that teachers’ professional demands were stopping the use of temporary teachers, and eradicating differences in working conditions and salaries, improving professional security, including the elimination of threats and intimidation, better management of educational institutions and improved selection procedures, increased use non-teaching staff to support the work of schools, increasing the number of women teachers, improving professional development, and taking into consideration the fact that some teachers are working in conflict areas and affected by conflict.
Educational demands identified at the seminar included the establishment of an independent and constitutional commission for teaching appointments, the allocation of 25 per cent of the national budget for education, the introduction of a national teachers’ day; the end of political interference in education and an enhanced role for teachers’ organisations in decision-making processes, as well as improving school structures and teacher distribution.
Summary of Recommendations from the Nepal Seminar
o The establishment of one strong independent teachers union
o The commitment of teachers and all stakeholders for quality public Education for All
o Union leaders’ capacity-building training to achieve trade union unity
o Independent and strong teachers’ unions
o Delivery of quality education
o Timely reforms in education
o Laws and regulations based on agreements reached between education organisations and the government
o Sufficient funding for education
o Research and capacity-building
“This kind of workshop is crucial,” said EI regional coordinator Sagar Nath. “Teachers’ unions are stronger and increase their impact on education policy through unity, as governments are led to listen to their voices and examine their demands.”
He added: “Progress, which had been made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and Dakar Goals for Education for All in the Region, is being jeopardised and undermined by the effects of the global economic crisis and of natural disasters. Deregulation and privatisation of public services, and, especially of education, reduces access and increases inequalities in society.”
Nath also condemned the fact that the economic circumstances of many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are being used to justify attacks on trade union rights and to reduce salaries and pensions.