To better understand the needs of member organisations in the region and to explore opportunities, partner organisations gathered on 15 November to discuss development cooperation projects in Africa and work on a common strategy.
Virtual discussions among the 27 participants from 13 countries led the way to the continuation of development cooperation projects across Africa and opened the door to new ones. Partner organisations identified ways to improve support to member organisations collectively. And the meeting also highlighted Education International’s crucial role in centralising information and guidance on development cooperation projects. This meeting paves the way for continued exchange of information and ideas among cooperation partners who work in the region.
African education unions face numerous challenges
Development cooperation is “a very noble and important cause”, stressed Dennis Sinyolo, Director of the Education International Africa region (EIRAF).
The EIRAF region faces multiple challenges and crises, including the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and other long-standing problems devastating the continent, such as conflicts, poverty, and climate change.
“Many African governments continue to infringe on human and trade union rights, such as social dialogue or professional autonomy,” he added. Sinyolo highlighted the attacks on teachers in Eswatini, a situation which remains extremely difficult for education unionists. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Togo, governments have responded harshly to strike actions, firing teachers, he condemned. In these different instances, he highlighted that Education International had responded swiftly to support its affiliates.
Development cooperation is of great importance in Africa, because many unions are small and have poor resources, he insisted.
Sinyolo said the meeting’s aim was “to help us better understand the needs of trade unions, projects led in Africa, and build greater synergy for greater impact”.
Needs for support in several areas
EIRAF also presented the outcomes of a needs survey carried out in October. Fifty unions, from thirty-one countries, have responded to an online questionnaire on threats, challenges and needs.
The first three threats mentioned by member organisations are COVID-19, violations of human and trade union rights and government meddling in union affairs.
As for the challenges, the highest one is by far the loss of membership.
The member organisations have ranked their needs as follows: leadership skills; social and policy dialogue; lobbying, advocacy and campaigning for the respect of international labour standards; use of digital technologies.
The regional office will take these expressed needs into account to guide the resources available in these directions.
Sharing information on all ongoing projects
Sinyolo then presented the EIRAF Action Plan, and colleagues from the EIRAF office highlighted eight different capacity-building projects targeting African trade unions:
- Africa Women in Education Network (AWEN)
- School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV)
- Education Workforce Initiative (EWI)
- Education Out Loud (EOL)
- Pan African Teachers’ Center Projects (PATC)
- Research Activities
- Global Response campaign on the commercialisation and the privatisation in and of education
- Union Renewal
Development cooperation partners also showcased their cooperation projects in Africa.
Thanks to joined efforts of EI and the DC partners, four African member organisations out of five benefit from at least one cooperation project. There is great diversity in the policies of cooperation partners. Some focus on a specific part of the education system (ECE), others on a particular problem related to the education system (child labour), others on union capacity building (organising, communication, social dialogue), others on a particular language (francophone countries), others still on a sub-region (East Africa).
Conclusions and way forward
In his concluding remarks, Sinyolo advised that cooperation partners and member organisations that are beneficiaries of development cooperation projects gather during the next development cooperation meeting.
Addressing concrete, specific work areas, he suggested that the Global Response campaign be expanded to include more countries, the relaunch of the John Thompson Fellowship Programme, and extending full support to the Young African Educators Network.
“I believe you have found this meeting fruitful, I certainly did,” the EIRAF Director also stated. “We at Education International are fully briefed about what you do, filled information gaps, and will take on board your recommendations to improve development cooperation.
“The ultimate goal all of us share is to support member organisations in Africa and build more democratic, independent, and stronger trade unions in Africa. Through our efforts, we will achieve that goal. It is solidarity at work. We are stronger together.”