ComNet: Communicators working together to change the narrative around public education

published 12 June 2023 updated 20 March 2024

Around 100 communicators working in education unions gathered online on June 1st as part of Education International (EI) Communicators’ Network (ComNet). They reconnected, exchanged experiences and ideas, and got ready to bring the EI “Go Public! Fund Education” campaign forward.

Fighting fake news and strengthening educators’ solidarity across borders

“You are our movement’s storytellers and so much of our world is shaped by the stories we tell. You bring to life the stories our people, their struggles, their victories and you make the world aware of the amazing work our educators do for their students in every corner of the world,” expressed EI President Susan Hopgood addressing participants in the first session.

She also mentioned fake news as a key challenge, “actively warping people’s perception of reality, ‘alternative truths’ are eating away at the very fabric of our communities, with constant attacks on democracy, on journalists and of course, on our unions. This is what you counter every day by lifting up the voices of educators everywhere, by telling our stories.”

She added: “Through you, our movement tells stories of hope, dedication, and solidarity. The hope of children lifted out of poverty and exclusion through free quality public education. The commitment of teachers and education support personnel to their students and communities. The solidarity between educators across the world coming together to support each other and build a better future for us all.”

Opening the second session, EI General Secretary David Edwards emphasised that “from Afghanistan, to Myanmar, to Iran, to Ukraine, from Türkiye to Sudan, you tell the stories of tragedy and solidarity. You make sure the world knows we don’t look away and never turn our backs to our colleagues and students. We live by our values. From South Africa to Argentina to the Philippines, you lift the voices of teachers and honor their work and commitment to education.”

He went on to note that “every day you help our movement speak truth to power. You counter lies and disinformation with the truth of what we do. You defend the right to education from ruthless profiteers. You protect educators’ right to decent work from cuts and austerity. You champion democracy and social justice.”

Edwards concluded by saying that this ComNet meeting “comes at a very important time for our global movement. Our Go Public! Fund Education campaign is gaining momentum and communicators are leading the way. Our success will depend on our capacity to tell the real story of public education and the educators who make it happen. I know you are all doing this work in your own contexts but this is a great opportunity to put our heads together, share insights, and strategise as a global movement.”

EI “Go Public! Fund Education” Campaign

During both sessions, this campaign was further highlighted through a presentation and participants were urged to relay in their country this call for governments to invest in public education, a fundamental human right and public good, and to invest more in teachers, the single most important factor in achieving quality education.

The union communicators network, ComNet, was created in 2002, the first EI network ever set up. From its outset, it has aimed to increase solidarity among communicators and exchange valuable information. In a conversation between Dominique Marlet, former head of the EI Communications unit, Francine Filion, former Head of Campaigns and Communications at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, and Gemma Tuffy of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, who participated in the first EI ComNet meetings, they explained the origins and purpose of the group.

Participants also received updated information about the upcoming EI 9th World Congress, to be held online in July, and were invited to send contributions to EI’s magazine, Worlds of Education.

Sharing diverse union campaign and communication experiences

During the first session, Ruby Bernardo, President of the National Capital Region branch of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers/The Philippines, presented the many diverse and festive activities, such as a Zumba contest, her union organises to raise awareness about the need to raise salaries, respect educators, and unionists’ rights.

Nicolas Anoto, Editorial Coordination Officer of the National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions-Education, also talked about his union communication around the Barometer of Education Professions, a survey of French educators allowing them to talk about their working conditions, their aspirations, and their vision of their profession.

The Zimbabwe Teachers' Association Communications and International Relations Officer, Daisy Zambuko, explained how her union developed a campaign around the increase of teachers’ salaries, and Gaëtan Kponoukon, General Secretary of National Union of Pre-Primary School Teachers/Benin, stressed how the union website helped spread information among the membership and made the collection of unions fees easier.

José Olivera, from the National Federation of Secondary Education Teachers/Uruguay started the second session presenting his union’s campaign to transform education and increase education financing.

Nilka Julio, Organisational Specialist at the National Education Association/USA, advised participants that when planning and making decisions for a campaign, to ask selected questions to intentionally combat implicit or explicit bias.

Julien Farges, International Affairs Officer of the National Union of Secondary School Teachers-Unitary Trade Union Federation/France, also detailed the month-long campaign his union led with other union confederations to fight off the governmental pension reform.

In Morocco, the activities of the National Union of Education-Democratic Confederation of Labour to improve the living and working conditions of Moroccan educators, as well as its work towards a comprehensive reform of the country's education system to put an end to inequalities who persist there, were presented by the union’s General Secretary, Younes Firachine.

Sylvie Lemieux, the Government Relations Advisor of the Union Confederation of Quebec/Canada, also underlined her union’s major campaigns in recent years, focusing on pay equity and political involvement, saying they were successful campaigns by determining the right target audiences and multiplying communication platforms and strategies (for example, adds posted on key national media, radio, television, websites, etc. followed by decision-makers, or on billboards in big cities).

Participants were also able to exchange experiences. They will be working to organise future ComNet events to highlight the voice of communicators in telling union stories and promoting adequate financing for quality, inclusive public education systems, as well as good working and living standards for teachers and education support personnel at all education levels.