Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Education International launched an urgent action appeal calling on all member organisations to stand with and support our colleagues in Ukraine. Education unions from across the world responded. One year on, our solidarity is unwavering.
David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, said: “Solidarity matters. Standing up for our values, for freedom, democracy, and sovereignty matters. From day one, educators around the world have supported our colleagues, students and all the brave people of Ukraine. We will continue to stand with them every step of the way to freedom.”
The call to support the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine resonated in education unions around the world, with messages of support and contributions coming in from all levels of the unions, including regional and local branches.
Education International has been working closely with its affiliate, the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine (TUESWU), to identify needs on the ground and respond to them in the most effective way.
Priorities included addressing educators’ basic needs, maintaining union operations, creating safe learning environments, offering professional development, providing resources, and fostering dialogue.
Through the solidarity funds received from union colleagues all over the world, TUESWU was able to support its regional branches and offer direct help to members. The Ukrainian union provided an emergency response to meet the basic needs of bereaved educators and stepped up to help members with shelter, food, water, and medical care.
The union also focused on maintaining its core operations that allow it to support its members. The EI solidarity fund enabled the union office to buy a generator in the cold months.
Ensuring that education continues
Solidarity also helped support educators operating with limited resources with the provision of textbooks, school supplies, and technology. Providing educators with these resources helped maintain a semblance of normalcy for students.
TUESWU also focused on promoting safe learning environments for both educators and students. The union was active in repairing damaged schools, suggesting security measures to ensure the safety of educators and students, and supporting the training of educators on how to address trauma and promote mental health in classrooms.
Educators were offered opportunities for professional development to help them stay motivated and maintain their skills in a challenging teaching environment. The union trainings helped create a sense of community and support. Collaborative union meetings were organised to share experience, best practices, provide support to one another, and develop innovative solutions to the unique challenges they face.
Supporting Ukrainian refugees
With millions of Ukrainians, the vast majority women and children, forced to flee their country, EI member organisations in the region rallied to help.
Union support for refugees included accommodation, meeting basic needs, helping them to access services and benefits, and ensuring education continued in the host country.
Education International provided support to affiliates in countries neighbouring Ukraine through regular communication, field missions, and solidarity. For example, PESTU, EI member organisation in Moldova, received funds to purchase equipment for the union training centre hosting Ukrainian refugees.
Support was also provided for unions in the region to come together and share best practices on how to ensure access to education for Ukrainian refugees.
Attacks against teachers and education in occupied territories
Teachers living in Ukraine’s occupied territories face the violence of a Russian army trying to impose a new curriculum that rewrites history and erases Ukrainian identity. The vast majority of teachers in occupied territories have refused to cooperate with the occupiers at great personal risk.
David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, condemned this oppression and violence, and reaffirmed the solidarity of educators around the world: “Our colleagues have put up a remarkable and admirable resistance in defense of their students and country. We are all in awe of their bravery and stand with them.”