Education international Executive Board: Going public with the recommendations of the UN High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession and continued solidarity

published 4 April 2024 updated 11 April 2024

“Just as teachers support us all, it is time to support teachers. Let’s make sure they have the support, recognition, and resources they need to provide quality, relevant education and skills for all.”

With this message, Education International's (EI) General Secretary, David Edwards opened the progress report to the 66th meeting of the Executive Board (ExBo), held March 26th-28th in Brussels. The quote is from the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres, which came at the launch of the landmark recommendations of the High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession.

The 59 recommendations, which were presented in February in South Africa, are a clear call to governments to strengthen the profession and ensure that teachers are valued and respected. The recommendations reflect decades of advocacy for quality education and investment in the teaching profession by Education International and member organizations around the world.

UN recommendations and the EI Go Public! Fund Education campaign

"I am happy that these UN High-Level Panel recommendations were presented, were adopted and are now policy," Edwards said as he addressed education union leaders representing every EI region across the globe.

Now "'we need to organize! With our Go Public! Fund Education campaign we are working to make sure each and every member organization has the tools and support to make the recommendations a reality in their countries. The UN Panel report must not sit on a shelf, it must become a reality for the teachers of the world,” he added.

Some of the first examples of the integration of the recommendations and the Go Public! Fund Education campaign, came from Cameroon, Sierra Leone and South Sudan, where member organizations are using the recommendations to advocate for better pay and conditions. Edwards added that Education International will work closely with members to ensure the U.N. document becomes a powerful tool for advocacy at the regional, national, and local level.

Bridge International Academies scandal

The need to support and fund public education was also made clear in light of the recent scandal involving Bridge International schools, a for-profit chain of schools operating in Africa and Asia. Education International for years sounded the alarm about the operations of Bridge International and the dangers of privatized, for-profit models which prey on vulnerable families. Addressing cases of sexual abuse at Bridge schools, Edwards noted that “the terrible things we predicted would happen, happened: Bridge systematically covered up the sexual abuse against children in its schools.” He further explained that though the World Bank Group, which invested in Bridge, issued an apology for its role in the cover up, the responsible parties needed to compensate the victims. “We are working to make sure that they are accountable. That is why you need unions and accountability. Otherwise, you create conditions for catastrophe,” he added.

Solidarity matters

The progress report also included a focus on the solidarity work of IE including efforts to rebuild a teacher training center in Ukraine, and to organise training on trauma-informed pedagogy for teachers in Palestine.

In Tanzania, the police arrested the general secretary of the Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) and nine other union leaders. They were released after EI, the EI Africa office, and member unions from the region mobilized rapidly to their defense.

EI also continues its work to highlight the plight of girls and women teachers in Afghanistan who in many areas have been forbidden from going to school and teaching since the Taliban takeover in 2021. The situation in the country and the testimonies of members was shared with key stakeholders during an event at the 68th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in New York, USA, which the participation of women union leaders from different regions of EI.

The Global Refugee Forum

Education International also put teachers in the spotlight at the Global Refugee Forum, spearheading global efforts to support the rights of teachers in contexts of forced displacement and crises. The Panel's recommendations which call for a Global Fund for teachers’ salaries will be key in moving forward with this area of work.

Edwards also presented further examples of EI solidarity work in Iran, Türkiye, and concluded with a call for continuing support for union members in Argentina as they challenge President Javier Milei and his regressive and anti-union agenda. "We will continue to show our solidarity, and will be there together for our World Congress,” scheduled for July this year.

Also in reference to the upcoming World Congress, Edwards reported on the EI delegation who met with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and his message of gratitude to EI members around the world. Lula, who was in prison during the EI's World Congress in Bangkok in 2019, thanked Education International for calling for his release and for its solidarity with unionists everywhere.

EI ExBo members also adopted the agenda and programme for the upcoming EI 10th World Congress to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from July 27th-August 2nd 2024.

Reports from EI regions

Reports were also presented about EI regional conferences.

The unity showed at EI’S North America and Caribbean Regional Conference, where educators committed to play an active role in transforming education in this vast and varied region, was highlighted.

The President of the Republic of South Africa Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa opened the well-attended EI Africa Regional Conference in November 2023 in Johannesburg, calling education unions “to stand together for resilient education systems in times of crises,” and the UN HLP recommendations were launched in that place on February 26th.

Presenting on the situation of education and unionism in the EI Latin America (EILA) region, Regional Director Combertty Rodriguez reported that neo-liberal forces have “increased inequality and poverty and weakened public employment. They defund public policies, particularly in education and the social sector. They have used public funds for private profit through public-private partnerships, mainly for educational businesses.”

In some countries, there is a tendency towards authoritarian political models, he also warned, saying that “there is a clear strategy to persecute the trade union movement, and an escalation in the elimination of labour and union rights.”

Another trend among some Latin American governments is to eliminate the collection of unions dues through the administrative structure of the State, and to impose fees for mobilization and/or strikes, on unions, he reported.

Rodriguez further explained that the clear challenge of EI and EILA is to develop a unified strategy to confront this anti-union context.

Unwavering support Palestinian educators

Saed Erziqat, General Secretary of the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT), also addressed the Education International (EI) Executive Board meeting on March 28th.

Erziqat recounted the horrors faced by Palestinian teachers, students, and their communities, including the killing of hundreds of teachers and thousands of students, the bombing by the Israeli military of universities and school centers, and the devastating living conditions for the population.

He made a direct call for a ceasefire, an end to the war, and called on the international community to work towards peace in the region. He thanked EI and its member organizations for their support which allowed GUPT to provide direct financial assistance to teachers in Gaza and the West Bank who have not been paid in months.

EI leaders reaffirmed their solidarity with Palestinian colleagues, a reiterated calls for a ceasefire, a release of the hostages, and an end to the suffering and the war.