From the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Education International called on global education union solidarity to help member organisations respond to the sanitary crisis and emerge stronger from it in terms of mobilising, organising and capacity-building.
As the pandemic brought education systems to a halt, Education International aimed to help its affiliates remain operational during the COVID-19 crisis, so they could play their role in the development of effective national responses to this crisis.
To this end, it established the COVID-19 Response Fund and issued an urgent action appeal for solidarity. In May, the global union federation of educators invited member organisations in need of support to submit requests. Thanks to the generous contributions from over 20 affiliates and through the Education International’s Solidarity Fund, it was able to provide financial assistance to member unions in need, helping them cushion the effects of the pandemic on their operational capacity.
Concrete support for member organisations
The support provided via the Education International’s COVID-19 Response Fund has helped member organisations respond to pressing needs that emerged with the pandemic, such as:
- The impact of lockdown measures on the union’s capacity to reach out to members, to collect memberships fees;
- The increasing numbers of dismissed and/or unpaid teachers, in particular in the private sector;
- Poor digital readiness and the urgency of distance education, as well as long-term needs that were exacerbated by it, i.e. the digital divide;
- Precarious, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions;
- Privatisation of education;
- Gender-based violence;
- Child labour;
- Poor social and policy dialogue in the education sector.
The Education International’s COVID-19 Response Fund further supported member organisations’ efforts to collect evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on education systems and communities and use it for advocacy purposes. Unions carried out surveys and consultations that allowed them, for example, to have a better grasp of online education.
They also mobilised grassroots teachers and school communities.
Whether through meetings to raise awareness of the required sanitary measures in schools, or through workshops to build capacity for online teaching, or the provision of legal assistance, Education International’s members were active and present on the ground.
In some cases, initiatives led by unions led to partnerships with the relevant education and health authorities.
Lessons learnt and implications for the future
The first lesson drawn from this experience is that trade union solidarity is alive and well.
It is reassuring to know that Education International can still count on members’ solidarity in times of crisis. The latter clearly demonstrated that when Education International’s member organisations collaborate closely and coordinate actions, it is possible to gain more impact.
Indeed, the organisations that responded to the urgent action appeal were themselves struggling with the impact of the pandemic at home but acted to support sister organisations elsewhere. Other organisations contributed in different ways, for example, by agreeing to support some of the received requests, therefore freeing limited funds for other countries, or reallocating funds from ongoing projects to COVID-19 response efforts.
The second lesson drawn is that members have growing needs for support, but the resources available to meet those needs are either stagnating or dwindling.