“COVID-19: educators and unions stand united and mobilise”, by David Edwards.

Today, teacher and education support personnel, union leaders the world over are coming together in myriad ways to find collective solutions to address the needs of their students, colleagues and communities despite enormous challenges and deteriorating situations.

Today, our members are demanding that all children and young people, as much as possible, have access to inclusive, quality and well-supported learning and education even when school buildings are closed, as is the case in many countries where governments are making difficult decisions to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At this very moment, teachers and education support personnel are supporting parents and communities in making sure children feel as safe as possible and understand how they can protect themselves and others with information and knowledge; not fear and prejudice.

I am so impressed with the stories I’ve heard of education professionals adapting and finding new solutions to keep their students engaged. Recorded lessons, podcasts, written lesson plans distributed in different ways. The professionals are demonstrating their dedication, their creativeness and their willingness to develop and share good ideas and solutions. 

Meanwhile, researchers are working around the clock to find a cure.  

I am proud to see member organizations across 174 countries working tirelessly to support their members and making sure they have the necessary tools for their work and the terms and conditions of employment to be effective. I am heartened by the willingness to share good examples of response from those countries that were at the tip of the Coronavirus spear so that others can learn about containment and mitigation. 

At this unprecedented moment, Education International will increase its work to support our members across sectors, categories, nations, regions and linguistic groups. We have already shared our policies and principles with the world’s ministries of education and will continue to advocate and organize so that educators’ voices inform education decisions. We are also monitoring, collecting and sharing your stories and good practices across all our platforms.  

We have been focused and shining a light on the profiteers and dataminers who want nothing more than early brand loyalty and access to our data. We’ve been engaged in this battle for some years now and we will not let up in the face of would-be disaster profiteers. 

Likewise, we are calling out autocratic regimes who weaken democracy in the name of safety and order. We have joined with other global union federations to impress upon employers and governments the critical importance of proactive action with regards to sick pay, parental leave, increased public investment and protecting labor rights. 

We are especially cognizant and concerned about the impact of the virus on the most marginalized and vulnerable: the students who depend on school feeding programs to get their only meal of the day, the casualized and contingent faculty who live already precarious existences, the parents who must choose between medical treatment and food, the ethnic minorities and refugees who are stereotyped and bullied instead of welcomed and supported, female students who already face gender discrimination. 

Today, like yesterday and tomorrow, we find our mission by responding to our core - our human and trade union values. In our minds are the memory of history and the hope of more just futures. In our DNA, a stubborn and resilient solidarity urges us out of isolationist, individualistic responses into collective action.  

We stand on the shoulders of giants who have sacrificed much for us. The first integrated school. Women’s suffrage. The first collectively bargained agreement. The first merger of global education union federations into one Education International. We feel the responsibility to them many of whom are now in the later stages of life and particularly vulnerable to the Coronavirus.  

Colleagues, this is an unpredictable and difficult time that requires organized resistance and educational persistence.  

Today, Education International, our member organizations and the world's educators are committed to getting through this together.  

Because it is who we are.

 
 


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David Edwards

David Edwards is the General Secretary of Education International.

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