Solidarity is a value that is based on a sense of equality and mutual support. That was the message conveyed by Haldis Holst, Deputy General Secretary of Education International (EI) to participants at second day of the Development Cooperation Network meeting in Brussels, Belgium.
Strengthening trade unions’ capacity to represent teachers and education personnel worldwide
Holst stressed the importance – and challenges – implicit in this approach, notably in terms of developing a cultural sensitivity for other partners. Cultural empathy leads to more efficiency in development cooperation, she said, and reinforces the collective weight and impact of trade union work.
Teachers and educators’ experience has much to contribute to the work in development cooperation, said Holst, particularly in relation to dealing with controversial issues and working in a collaborative fashion.
Nicolás Richards, senior coordinator with EI, launched the debate on South-South cooperation. Fatima Silva, from the Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Educação(CNTE), Brazil, and David Mawela, from the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union(SADTU), emphasised the importanceof a South-South approach, compared to a North-South cooperation. Both underlined its beneficial effects on trade unions, which become more empowered, strong and independent. Mawela cited his own union as an example, where membership increased from 3,000 to 260,000. SADTU is now able to help other trade unions in the region strengthen their membership and become a more relevant player in education policy, he said.
Funding and autonomy
Manfred Brinkman, from the Education and Science Workers’ Union(GEW) Germany, highlighted the importance of giving organisations from the Global South independence and leeway in the development of their own programmes through the investment of 0.7 per cent of Global North organisations’ funds into development cooperation, as stated in EI’s policy document.
Combertty Rodríguez, director of the EI’s regional office in Latin America, noted the challenges faced by unions in the region, especially in two areas: the duplication of projects with aid from organisations from the Global North, and the inappropriate use of development funds by government authorities in the Global South. These challenges are an additional motivation for trade unions to develop a joint development cooperation strategy, he said.
Rodríguez also stressed the problem posed by the growing commercialisation of education in the region, which is encouraging some governments to cut funding and rely heavily on private providers, to the detriment of their societies.
A wide range of topics
At the network meeting, parallel workshops covered topics ranging from child labour to the professional development of teachers in Africa, projects for the inclusion of refugees in schools, and the work carried out by unions to enhance unity of action in Africa.
In addition, the new website section for EI’s development cooperation work and a recently crafted newsletter were also presented and discussed by the participants.