Development cooperation, an ideal tool for union renewal

published 6 March 2018 updated 7 March 2018

Education International and its affiliates have committed themselves and worked, through their development cooperation activities, towards ensuring that young and early stage teachers and support personnel are adequately represented and empowered within their unions.

Work based on EI Congress’s resolution

This commitment was reaffirmed in theEducation International (EI) Resolution on young and early-stage teachers, researchers and support personnel adopted by the 7thEI World Congressin 2015. The resolutionurges member organisations to “make concerted efforts to ensure that young and early stage teachers and support personnel are adequately represented within organisational structures, and are empowered to participate in decision-making processes within their unions, including as members of collective bargaining teams”.

The first step​ towards reaching the resolution’s strategic goals was the organisation, since 2015, of yearly workshops on “Young teachers for quality education ​and effective unions in African countries”​,in Dakar, Senegal. Targeting young (under the age of 35) unionists from Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Senegal, and Togo, theseworkshops’ objectives​are to increase the participation of young members, especially young women, in unions​, increase the number of new young members​, and to establish a cohort of young teacher trade unionists in African countries​.

Adoption of SDGs

The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were also adopted in 2015. The 10 targets linked to SDG4 on education are all closely aligned with the programmes of EI and many of its member organisations.These include work on​ quality education​, equity and inclusion​, early childhood education, gender equality, and continuous professional development.However, EI’s member organisations must mobilise their collective efforts immediately if these targets are to be met by 2030.​

Opportunities for EI young advocates

In a second step towards the implementation of its resolution on young and earlystage educators​, EI’s secretariat held thefirst global workshop for over30 young and early stage activists in Brussels, from 17-19 July 2017. This aimed to deepen participants’ understanding of the global policy environment, its impact on national-level advocacy and campaigning and how unions can engage, with a particular focus on Agenda 2030 – including SDGs –in the processes of financing, implementation and monitoring. The workshop also​ supported young emerging union leaders through focused capacitybuilding in the areas of advocacy, campaigning and strategic messaging, and mobilising and organising. And it alsoestablished anEIplatform of young/early stage teachers.​

Several participants have shared the in-depth analyses of the SDGs in events and activities organised in their respective unions​, including, for example, Julien Yomanfrom theSyndicat National des Formateurs de l'Enseignement Technique et de la Formation Professionnelle (SYNAFETP), Ivory Coast.

“I shared the experience of the Brussels meeting with the National Executive Board as soon as I was back, since I am myself a member of this board,” he says. “On 7October, the SYNAFETPcelebrated World Teachers' Day, with a conference and my presentation on SDGs. After establishing a brief history of SDGs, I defined them and outlined actions to achieve them.”

The SYNAFETP board has since included SDGs in its work programme and made a commitment to participate in any meeting or working group on SDGs in the Ivory Coast, Yoman stresses. To this end, a union tour began in October 2017 and SYNAFETP members received a copy of his presentation on SDGs to inform grassroots teachers.

Mentoring young union members

Within the Malaysian Academic Movement (MOVE) also, young activists are perceived as essential for union renewal and mentoring of members,says Robert Jeyakumar Nathan.

“The challenges are different as we change for a different generation, so union renewal is important to stay abreast of new challenges that society is facing,” he underlines. “It is also to ensure that there is a succession from senior to younger union members, so the struggle continues and new leaders lead the struggle.”

Adding that unions need young leaders,he recommends thatyoung leaders can be paired with older experienced leaders in order to address issues better. “Empower young leaders to run projects. Let them have experience being leaders and run small-scale projects nationwide.”

Yessica Cubero, YouthSecretaryoftheSindicato de Trabajadores de la Educación Costarricense (SEC)/Costa Rica, agrees. “Young teachers need trade unions to solve their problems collectively, and the trade union movement needs young people to get stronger,” she says, advising EI to support national affiliation campaigns targeting young members.

Stimulating participation of young activists

Enhanced participation of young activists in education union decision-making structurescan be encouragedfurther by development cooperation among EI affiliates. A greatexampleisgiven by Union Démocratique des Enseignantes et des Enseignants du Sénégal (UDEN) General Secretary Awa Wade.She recounts how, in 2014, the French Syndicat national des enseignements de second degré-Fédération syndicaleunitaire(SNES-FSU),supported their Senegalese colleagues by organising workshops on capacity building, targeting young and female members in 2014 in diverse Senegalese regions.

“Recognising the growing numbers of aging members at union level, and with many comrades retiring, our goal was to be able to recruit young people, and hold workshops in 14 regions only for young people under 35 years,” she says. “These young people were responsible for going out at grassroots level, recruiting their peers and, at the same time, increasing their training on the basis of trade unionismand collective bargaining.”

She also acknowledges that cooperating with SNES-FSUallowed UDEN to work onachieving improved numbers of young members,with twoof them joining UDEN’sNational Executive Board.