Education International
Education International

2013 GAW: education unionists fight the global trained teachers’ gap

published 8 May 2013 updated 14 May 2013

From 21-28 April, EI affiliates worldwide celebrated the 2013 Global Action Week (GAW), under the rallying theme: “Every Child Needs a Teacher: Trained Teachers for All!” Affiliates reaffirmed their commitment to quality education and turned GAW into a successful event to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA).

Africa: motivated, well-trained and supported teachers crucial

In Africa, the affiliates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the FENECO-UNTC, SYECO and the Centrale de l’Education nationale et de la Recherche scientifique-Enseignement(CSC-Enseignement), joined in a common initiative to raise the awareness of all education stakeholders about the need to achieve the EFA goals.

Through presentations and discussions, the trade unionists defended the right of every child to quality education and underlined that no child can fully exercise this right without a motivated, well-trained and supported teacher. In the DRC, data shows, however, that many children continue to be taught by unqualified teachers.

addressing the shortage of qualified teachers requires a well-targeted government intervention, including concomitant funding, to attract, recruit and retain qualified candidates, as well as to ensure that teachers are equitably deployed and work in supportive environments.

After the welcome speech made by the CSC representative, Alfonso Tshiband Tshitsh Atshikez, three presentations were made: FENECO-UNTC National Secretary Jean Kivwata Gassanji talked about the training of teachers in the DRC; SYECO General Secretary Jean-Pierre Kimbuya presented on the status of teachers; and CSC-Enseignement General Secretary Valery Nsumpi spoke about the right to education.

Among partners involved in this activity were the Secretary General of Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education’s delegate, the Minister for Education’s delegate in the province, and the DRC Director General of Non-Formal Education (Ministry of Social Affairs).

Within the context of GAW, The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) launched a campaign to fight violence against teachers, “Zero Tolerance on Violence against Teachers”. The launch took place on 24 April at the GNAT Teachers’ Hall in Accra.

GNAT General Secretary and EI Vice-President Irene Duncan Adanusa participated in the ceremony, as well as the EI Chief Regional Coordinator for Africa, Assibi Napoe; a Representative of the Director General of the Ghana Education Service; and Owusu Boateng, a member of the national Parliament as well as a teacher and member of GNAT.

All speakers highlighted the importance of education for the realisation of the full potential of individuals as well as the development of a nation. They also stressed the fact that teachers are at the heart of education, and the need for safe and secure environments for effective and efficient learning and teaching.

However, many teachers work under difficult circumstances and the speakers focused on the issue of violence against teachers. The prevalence of different forms of violence against teachers was raised as one of the factors contributing to the decreasing status and attractiveness of the teaching profession. The link between the theme of GNAT’s campaign and that of this year’s GAW was therefore emphasised.

As part of their campaign, GNAT launched a petition  calling for the adoption of a law to protect teachers against all forms of violence in Ghana.

In Mali, EI’s affiliate, the Syndicat national de l’Education et de la Culture- UNTM (SNEC-UNTM), participated in a coalition together with Oxfam and Plan International. They held a conference, “Every child needs a quality teacher”, on 27, 29 and 30 April

The Coordination of Mauritanian unions affiliated to EI (COSMAFINED) launched the 2013 GAW on 21 April in Chinguitty. The event was attended by the Minister of State for Education and Scientific Research, elected officials (mayors and deputies), as well as civil society organisations and teachers.

A five-minute film on the GAW theme, “Quality Teachers for All”, prepared by the coordinators, was shown, followed by a discussion on this theme.

The launch of the GAW in Niger was organised in Niamey, with the Secretary General of the Ministry of National Education of Niger present. EI national affiliates, the Syndicat national des enseignants du Niger(SNEN), the Syndicat national des enseignants de base (SNEB), the Syndicat national des travailleurs de l’éducation du Niger(SYNTEN), the Syndicat national des travailleurs de l’éducation de base(SYNATREB) and the Syndicat national des agents de la formation et de l’éducation du Niger(SYNAFEN) participated in the ceremony.

Asia: successful rally and social dialogue

In India, the All India Primary Teachers Federation (AIPTF) organised a mass rally before the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on 4 April, just before the GAW. The rally was attended by nearly 72,000 teachers from all over the country, demanding the full implementation of the Right to Education Act within the prescribed timeframe and the abolition of the governmental policy on private public partnership in education.

Other demands included: the abolition of teachers’ eligibility tests; the provision of professional training to para-/contract teachers; and the restoration of the pension scheme.

As a result of the mass rally, AIPTF representatives were invited by the Human Resources Development (HRD) Ministry for a discussion on the demands.

The HRD Minister took good note of the AIPTF demands and promised to take up the discussion within the HRD Ministry.

Europe: focus on strong teacher union unity and quality teachers for disadvantaged students

In Albania, GAW activities are becoming a tradition for EI’s affiliates, the Trade Union Federation of Education and Science of Albania (FSASH) and the Independent Trade Union of Education of Albania (SPASH).

A wide range of materials was distributed to the main district sections, focusing on the teacher qualifications and the challenges faced in providing all children in Albania with quality education.

These trade unions were part of a broad coalition, led by the Children’s Rights Centre of Albania (CRCA) and composed of more than 12 organisations and NGOs, acting in the framework of 2013 GAW.

A meeting was organised by FSASH and SPASH on 23 April in Tirana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science.

More than 60 teachers and local trade union leaders, from Tirana City and Tirana district gathered in the Ministry of Education on the occasion of GAW. The opening speech was given by FSASH president, Xhafer Dobrushi, who reiterated the commitment of both FSASH and SPASH to quality education, teachers’ training, and keeping children in school by preventing and eliminating child labour.

The Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Halit Shamata, spoke about the full commitment of his Ministry and Regional Education Directorates to improve the training and preparation of teacher and their in-service training.

SPASH Vice President Nevrus Kaptelli also welcomed the collaboration with the Ministry and local educational directorates and underlined the trade unions’ engagement and commitment in this regard.

FSASH General Secretary Stavri Liko reported on the International Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour, organised in Uganda on 18-19 April, and its Declaration, mentioning some of the obligations of the Government, Ministry, education trade unions and other stakeholders to keep children in school, and prevent and eliminate child labour.

A regional GAW meeting was organised on 22 April in Durres, Albania’s second largest city. More than 40 teachers and school-based trade union leaders from both FSASH and SPASH took part in this meeting.

Both chairmen Xhafer Dobrushi and Bajram Kruja, as well as the representative from the Regional Educational Directorate, Gani Mece, were present.

Other activities were organised to mark GAW, including meetings with politicians, as well as activities in many trade union sections and schools, notably in Tirana, Vlora, Elbasani, Korca and Fieri.

The Mellila section of the Confederación de sindicatos de trabajadoras y trabajadores de la enseñanza-Intersindial (STEs-Intersindical) of Spain issued a press release stating that the shortage of qualified teachers is one of the biggest obstacles to the achievement of EFA and the MDGs, and reiterating that quality education requires quality teachers.

Over five million primary teachers are still needed to implement universal primary education by 2015,. This figure is based on the rate of teacher attrition as well as the two million additional teachers needed to fill vacancies. Moreover, millions of teachers already working need further training.

Furthermore, STEs-Intersindical said that the teachers’ distribution should be better adjusted to target disadvantaged children so that they do not miss the opportunity to access quality education. These challenges require a specific intervention, including substantial funding and specific strategies to attract and retain professionals in rural and disadvantaged areas, to ensure quality and educational justice for all.

North America: quality and equality in education brought by trained teachers

In the United States of America, the Executive Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Francine Lawrence, explained that during this GAW, “AFT members are joining with teachers, parents and community organisations around the globe to speak out for the more than 60 million young people who do not have access to a basic education. They represent 10 per cent of all the children in the world”.

She highlighted that the AFT’s GAW advocacy has been focused in particular on making education a reality for all girls and young women around the world.

“Promoting girls’ education is not only the right thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. Over half of the out-of-school children are girls,” Lawrence said.

US President Barack Obama also presented the 2013 National Teacher of the Year award to Jeff Charbonneau, a member of the National Education Association (NEA), an EI affiliate, on 23 April, during the GAW.

“Jeff wants the best for his students and understands the importance of challenging them and engaging them,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We’re proud to have Jeff as an NEA member and leader as he puts a great face to the millions of NEA members who bring their very best to their classrooms every day for their students.”

A global theme successfully relayed locally and nationally

For years, EI and the Global Campaign for Education have been committed to defending the right of every child to a quality education. The theme of GAW 2013 emphasised that no child has a chance of realising this right without a well-trained, well-supported and motivated teacher. Yet evidence shows that many children around the world continue to be taught by unqualified teachers. For example, nearly two million new teachers need to be recruited to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015.

Closing the teacher gap requires focused intervention from public authorities, including significant, well-targeted financing to attract, recruit and retain qualified candidates, ensure quality pre-service and in-service training for every teacher, make sure teachers are equitably deployed and provided with supportive environments.

At the global level, the ‘Every Child Needs a Teacher’ campaign started with the launch of an EI- GCE report, Closing the Trained Teacher Gap, in New York in September 2012.

“EI welcomes the strong involvement of its member organisations in the Global Action Week,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Once again, teachers around the globe have reminded public leaders and society at large that well-trained teachers are key to quality education and a good future for their country. The Global Action Week is a unique opportunity for EI and its affiliates to mobilise with GCE partners, parents, students and the whole community in an internationally coordinated way to maximise our voices and make sure that addressing the teacher gap becomes a top priority for governments and development partners.”