The global education community mourns the passing of education and union champion Ram Pal Singh Ji

published 22 September 2023 updated 9 October 2023

The President of the All India Primary Teachers' Federation passed away peacefully on September 22, 2023.

Originally from Uttar Pradesh, Ram Pal Singh Ji started his teaching career at the age of 21. He joined his union determined to improve teachers’ working conditions, pay, and rights. He became the General Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh state branch of the union in 1985, a position he held for the next 15 years. He led several protests and was imprisoned 10 times for standing up for teachers. In 1993 he became the General Secretary of the All India Primary Teachers' Federation and in 1997 he became the union’s President, a position he held until the end.

Throughout his career, he persisted in the struggle to uphold the rights of teachers, fighting for quality education for all, and working to strengthen his union. Recognising his commitment and expertise, the Government of India appointed him to various Government bodies and institutions working with education policy and implementation, such as the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the National Council for Teacher Education, the National University of Education Planning and Administration, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and the Governing Council and Executive Committee of National Mission of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

Ram Pal Singh Ji also led his union in one of its most important victories - the enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act in 2009, which made elementary education a fundamental right of all children in India. Under his leadership, the union also secured better pay and working conditions for teachers across the country. In 2014, Ram Pal led a nationwide march “Shiksha Yatra” as part of Education International’s Unite for Quality Education campaign. The march crossed all states of India and culminated in New Delhi on 1st March 2014.

He was also a champion of teachers, students, and education at the international level. He worked tirelessly to bring teachers in all countries together in solidarity. At the time of his death, he was Vice Chairperson of the Education International Asia Pacific Regional Committee and a member of the Education International Executive Board.

He was a staunch crusader for trade union and human rights and was always concerned with the impact of any policy on the poor and the vulnerable. His commitment and dedication to the cause were such that the day he was stricken by the fatal blood clot, he was working in the union office to organise a teachers' march.

Anand Singh, Education International Regional Director for Asia Pacific, stated: “As we mourn the loss, let us remember and honour his relentless dedication, unwavering spirit, and selfless service to the cause of education and the rights of teachers. His legacy will continue to inspire generations of educators and unionists to stand up for what is right and just.”

David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, added: “With great sadness and deep admiration I send condolences from Education International to the family, friends, and teachers of India who had the honour and fortune to know the great Ram Pal Singh Ji. His is a legacy of courage and commitment to our profession, to unionism, and to our students. The education community in India, in Asia Pacific, and the whole world are forever shaped by his life of tireless service and integrity. He will be missed but not forgotten.”