EI’s affiliate unions in the Bureau of the Comité Syndical Francophone de l’Education et de la Formation (CSFEF) have pledged their involvement in EI’s flagship campaigns throughout 2014 and reiterated their commitment to free and compulsory public education for all. These assurances were made at the recent CSFEF meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 9-11 January.
All the trade union organisations elected to the Bureau were present: CSQ/Canada, AEFO/Canada, UNSA Education/France, SNES/France, SNUIPP/France, SER/Switzerland, SPIRU HARET/Romania, SNE FDT/Morocco, SNEN/Niger, and FENECO/Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“Francophonie is now made up of 220 million individuals who speak French and that number is steadily rising,” said Agnès Bréda, EI’s representative on the CSFEF Bureau. “Schools play an important role in language learning but, because of the lack of resources, teaching is in decline.”
The round-table discussion at the beginning of the meeting highlighted that education is still being sacrificed by governments, be they socialist or liberal (in France, Quebec, Romania, Niger, DRC, etc.). Education budgets are in shortfall, in the North as in the South and, as a result, the quality of public education is falling, as reported in the minutes (in French) of the CSFEF seminar in Chisinau, Moldovia, held in March 2013 and approved in Ouagadougou.
The Ouagadougou meeting decided that the Bureau would next meet in Montreal, Canada, on 30 and 31 May 2014, following the World Conference on ‘Unite for Quality Education – Better Education for a Better World’, to maximise the participation of its members in EI’s activities.
This conference will talk about both teachers and non-teachers, and will give EI member organisations and their partners a unique opportunity to unite in defending free and compulsory quality public education for all.
Bréda also reminded members of the CSFEF Bureau that another major meeting is the 2nd World Women’s Conference, to be held in Dublin, Ireland, from 7-9 April 2014. Under the theme of “Women in Trade Unions and in Education: From Words to Action”, this will be an opportunity to have a lengthy debate on the education of girls around the world, the economic independence of women, and gender equality in education unions
15th Francophonie Summit
The CSFEF Bureau also debated the proposed theme for the next High Level Summit in Dakar, Senegal, in November 2014, for all the Heads of State of the Francophonie countries, namely ‘Femmes et jeunes en Francophonie: vecteur de paix, acteurs de développement’ (Women and youth in Francophonie: bringers of peace, drivers of development).
“The future of Francophonie and the world is at stake!” Bréda insisted. “The democratic values we share in our organisations will be at the heart of all the discussions on peace and sustainable development.”
14th CSFEF meeting
Every two years, in the run-up to the Francophonie Heads of State Summit, the CSFEF holds a meeting of its members to prepare the message it wishes to send to the leaders’ meeting at the Summit. Some 30 trade unions attend that meeting.
According to Bréda, given this year’s summit theme, the CSFEF’s message will centre on
· Increasing school education for girls in the countries of the South
· The recruitment of young teachers
· The quality of education, both from the point of view of teacher training and their working conditions (the school environment, pay levels, occupational health, equality between women and men, etc.)
· Proficiency in the French language, which has been falling and is undermining school education
At this 14th meeting, some of the posts on the CSFEF Bureau will be due for election, notably the posts of President and General Secretary.
Education must stay at the top of the world agenda post-2015
“This is still a very risky period, all the more so as the 2015 deadline to achieve Education For All is approaching and we already know that this challenge to get every child, girls and boys, to complete primary education, will not be met!” observed Bréda.
In her speech, she noted that the UNESCO General Conference held in November 2013 was very restrained in its assessment of Education For All (EFA) in the world and debated the post-2015 outlook. Some developed countries did not hesitate to say that after 2015, specific targets should be identified, rather than seeking to tackle EFA in full.
“For EI, the challenge now is enormous, because we have to increase school attendance rates for children around the world and at the same time improve the quality of public education,” she concluded.