Tonga: Empowering educators for sustainable development and human rights

published 21 May 2024 updated 17 June 2024

The Friendly Islands Teachers’ Association (FITA) is leading a transformative effort to empower educators and promote sustainable development within Tonga's education sector. In March 2024, FITA, conducted two pivotal workshops focusing on climate change, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), trade union rights, and human rights.

The workshops were held with the support of Educational International’s Solidarity Fund and financial aid received from Educational International’s member organizations from all over the world following the Urgent Action Appeal released in March 2022 after The Hunga Tonga submarine volcano erupted violently, triggering a tsunami that swept over Tonga’s low-lying islands and reached Fiji, Vanuatu, and many other areas along the Pacific rim.

On climate change in particular, the training was aimed at helping FITA members be better prepared and make informed decisions when a natural disaster strikes, understanding and addressing the impacts of the climate crisis. Educators were encouraged to incorporate climate change into their teaching.

Workshop 1: Climate change and SDGs advocacy

The first workshop centered on climate change and Sustainable Development Goals, addressing critical areas such as quality education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), and decent work and economic growth (SDG 8). This workshop aimed to deepen participants' understanding of the links between climate change, education, gender equality, and economic prosperity. Through engaging discussions, educators explored strategies to incorporate SDGs into their teaching practices and school curricula, ensuring that principles of sustainable development are woven into the education system.

Workshop 2: Trade union and human rights obligations

The second workshop focused on trade union rights and human rights obligations. This session provided FITA members with crucial insights into their rights and responsibilities as educators and trade unionists. By fostering discussions on democracy, trade union rights, and human rights, participants were empowered to advocate for inclusive and equitable education, promote lifelong learning opportunities, and champion social justice within their communities.

A future Youth Seminar, ensuring the continuity of capacity-building initiatives for upcoming generations has already been planned.

Significant outcomes and future commitments

The workshops yielded substantial outcomes, aligning with the overarching goals of FITA and Educational International Asia Pacific Region:

  • Integration of SDGs: Participants returned to their schools with a renewed commitment to integrating Sustainable Development Goals into their teaching practices and school activities, ensuring sustainability principles are embedded within the education sector.
  • Climate change awareness: Educators gained a deeper understanding of climate change impacts and were empowered to address these challenges through informed decision-making and advocacy.
  • Child-friendly schools: Emphasizing the importance of child-friendly schools, the workshops ensured that children thrive and achieve their full potential in a supportive learning environment.
  • Advocacy for rights: Members were equipped with the knowledge and skills to uphold trade union rights and human rights obligations, promoting social justice and equitable education for all.

“The workshops organized by FITA with the support from Educational International via its Asia Pacific regional office have significantly enhanced our union's image, demonstrating its commitment to promoting sustainable development and human rights within the education sector. They have provided members with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to drive positive change within their schools and communities. This collaborative effort not only strengthened the capacity of FITA members, but also contributed to the broader goal of fostering inclusive, equitable, and sustainable education systems in Tonga and beyond,” explained FITA Treasurer Ena Malani.

EI Teach for the Planet

Through its Teach for the Planet campaign, EI has been working for quality climate change education. The campaign demands that climate education, based on science and with a civic action focus, becomes as fundamental as teaching, reading, and writing.

Educators, in Tonga and everywhere, have a crucial role to play when it comes to climate action and are standing up for the planet and for their students.