On 24 January, Education International marked the International Day of Education by launching its new global campaign: Go Public! Fund Education. The campaign is an urgent call for governments to fully fund public education and to value, respect, and pay teachers and education workers as the indispensable professionals at the heart of education.
Education International members gathered for the launch of the Go Public! Fund Education campaign in an online event led by its Deputy General Secretary, Haldis Holst. Participants had the opportunity to reflect on how to articulate a global narrative in support of quality public education, as well as sharing union strategies and campaign approaches from different countries to increase investment in education and the teaching profession.
Strengthening the narrative for quality public education
Education International’s President, Susan Hopgood, and vice president for Africa, Mugwena Maluleke, set the stage for the campaign with a conversation about why it is imperative, and urgent, to fully fund public education systems.
Hopgood stated that the Go Public! Fund Education will elevate the voices of education unions to influence international policies for well-resourced equitable public education systems that invest in, and value, teachers and education support personnel.
Maluleke highlighted that the current pro-privatisation hegemonic narrative is a threat to the just, sustainable, and inclusive future we are building with our students. He emphasised the need for articulating a new global narrative that lays out where the resources for enhanced public investment in education are, which in many cases are going to destructive sources, and where they should go instead for the development of just, sustainable, equitable and prosperous societies. “Ultimately, it is not a lack of resources. It is a lack of political will to make education a priority”, he stated.
Leonardo Garnier, Special Adviser to the United Nations for the Transforming Education Summit, and a former minister of education of Costa Rica, conveyed a strong message in favour of increased public investment in education and reducing inequalities. "All children around the world must have access to quality public education", Garnier stated.
A campaign for education unions
Education International´s General Secretary, David Edwards, explained how the Go Public! Fund Education campaign goals reflected the main priorities of education unions across the world and, therefore, will serve to advance their policy objectives and empower the teaching profession. “This campaign is for you and your members”, he stated.
Edwards highlighted the opportunity arising from the recent announcement of the creation of a Global Commission on the Teaching Profession, a high-level expert group that will give recommendations to address the global teacher shortage and its consequences: “Education International will be the voice of the profession, your voice, to make sure teachers and education workers are at the table every step of the way. We need to mobilise at the local, national, regional, and global level so that all governments commit to funding public education to make sure we have the working conditions we need to teach and our students have the environment they need to learn. ”
Testimonies from the struggle
The webinar also provided a space for Education International’s member organisations to support and learn from each other, by sharing strategies and campaigning approaches that have been successful, as well as encouraging them to campaign for increased investment in education and the teaching profession within their own contexts.
Eva Zsuzsa, President of PSZ-SEH, Hungary, and vice-president of the Trade Union Cooperation Forum, made presented how Hungarian teachers engaged in industrial action with strong public support, for a year now, urging authorities to meet their demands to improve educators’ working and living conditions.
In the Philippines, Raymond D. Basilio, general secretary of the ACT, has been leading a national campaign to increase public education funding to, at least, 6 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product. Public funding is crucial to safely return to face-to-face teaching after more than two years of a failed distance education program.
Marième Sakho Dansokho, General Secretary of SYPROS, Senegal, highlighted the importance of unity and solidarity within the union movement, as well as broader alliances with civil society organisations. Education International’s member organisations in Senegal have joined forces in the USEQ (Union Syndicale pour une Education de Qualité), to advocate for more consistent domestic education funding and confront the growing privatisation and commercialisation of education. “The TaxEd alliance project and the new EI campaign Go Public! Fund education are key elements of this strategy”, she said.
Alfonso Cepeda, General Secretary of SNTE, Mexico, gave some insights on the campaign “Todos y todas a la escuela”, aiming at addressing the main educational challenges in the wake of the pandemic including school dropouts, as well as tackling teachers’ precarious employment and bargaining for wage increases in the face of inflation.
José Olivera, president of FENAPES, Uruguay, emphasised that education budgets clearly reflect political choices. The union has been waging an intense campaign to stop current budget cuts and demand greater investment, as well as denouncing the commercialisation and privatisation of education. Olivera explained how thanks to a broad union mobilisation and an innovative communication campaign, 52 per cent of the country’s population is now demanding more public funding for education.
Education International reiterated its call on the world's governments to fulfil their obligation to free quality public education and encouraged all member organisations to join the campaign as they mobilise in their local context.