EI celebrates education champions

published 25 July 2019 updated 26 July 2019

Today Education International honoured two outstanding activists during its 8th World Congress in Bangkok, Thailand. Curtis Riep received the Albert Shanker Education Award and Jalila al Salman received the Mary Hatwood Futrell Human and Trade Union Rights Award.

Every World Congress, EI distinguishes two education activists as recipients of these awards in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the field. The awards celebrate the winner’s professional activity that reflects a commitment to educational excellence and the promotion of democracy, social justice and equality through education.

Jalila Al-Salman winsMary Hatwood Futrell Human and Trade Union Rights Award

Al Salman, a lifelong teacher and advocate for teacher union rights in Bahrain, has worked to advance democracy and equality despite repeated pressure and intimidation from the Bahrain government. She was imprisoned and subjected to torture by the authorities. Yet she refused to be silenced, continuing to fight for the rights of teachers in Bahrain to organise without political interference. At the same time, she led the Bahrain Teachers Association. She is a fervent activist for the rights of girls in Bahrain and the Middle East.

In her acceptance speech, Al Salman spoke about her experience, saying: “For every award winner, there is a story behind the prize. There is someone, some events or challenges that put them at the forefront either by choice or by force. In my case, the story of Bahrain was the reason, the motive and the driving force; all that happened to me and to my colleagues pushed me to the forefront and I took the stand. For me, it goes without saying that this award would not have been given in the first place if my colleagues, my students and my people were not suffering. If they were not looking at me as a source of hope to change, I would not have been here today.”

Curtis Riep receives the Albert Shanker Education Award

Riep, who is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the University of Alberta, Canada, has contributed to promoting quality public education through his ground-breaking research highlighting the increasing privatisation of education in several African and Asian countries. In 2016, Riep conducted field research that provided evidence for EI affiliate UNATU’s successful effort to convince the Ugandan government to act against Bridge International Academies (a for-profit school chain operating illegally in Uganda).

Upon accepting the award, Riep said: “The risks associated with the spread of commercialization and privatization in education are not isolated events only effecting certain parts of the world. It is a global phenomenon. And although the threats, challenges, and issues faced in Uganda, the Philippines and Ghana are different than they are in say the United States, Australia, or Canada—what is at stake is the same across the world: a public education system that works for the people, rather than profit-seeking elites, or the 1%. We need an education system for the 99%.”