Today is May 13, 2011 and in 69 days EI 6th World Congress will begin. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) will be represented by Ronald Clarke the Union’s first vice-president and acting president. Is SVGTU in a position to represent the teachers of this country at that international forum? Does Clarke have the moral authority to speak on our behalf in such a gathering?
EI –Education International– is the global union federation of organizations that represents over 30 million teachers and other education workers, through 402 member organizations in 173 countries and territories. The World Congress, held every four years, is the supreme governing body of Education International. The next Congress will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, in the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from July 22nd to July 26th, 2011.
The Congress provides an opportunity for representatives of all EI affiliates to meet and strengthen the bonds of solidarity between teachers and education workers throughout the world. Delegates consider the major contemporary issues affecting their organizations, the international teacher trade union movement, and the ongoing struggle to achieve quality public education for all.
At the World Congress, EI members will address “major contemporary issues” affecting teachers across the globe. Among the issues on EI’s agenda are:
- education for all;
- the working and living conditions of teachers;
- school leadership;
- status of teachers;
- trade union education;
- human and trade union rights;
- children rights gender equality;
- sexual diversity;
- health and safety at schools;
- HIV/AIDS prevention;
- the global economic crisis and its impact on teachers
- national violent conflicts and their impact on teachers.
Indeed, EI is on a mission to forge solidarity among the world’s teachers in the quest for quality education.
Where does St. Vincent and the Grenadines stand relative to all these critical issues on EI’s agenda? How has the SVGTU executed its mandate to address these concerns on the national front? Exactly what will Clarke take to the world congress on our behalf? What does he intend to bring back?
There are those who who assert that SVGTU is now a broken union. Since the last biennial convention over a year ago there has not been a single legitimate gathering of the principal organs of the SVGTU, i.e. the General Membership and the General Council. This is a clear violation of the constitution. The National Executive is apparently left to do its own thing. The situation is such that the very legitimacy of the union’s operations may be questioned. What is the acting president going to tell EI in South Africa about this situation?
Given the perception that the leadership of the organization has been unable or refused to stand up and speakout on certain national issues, can we now expect acting president Ronald Clarke to do so in South Africa? What is he going to report on issues such as:
- violation of the collective agreement;
- the status of the reclassification exercise;
- failure to revise the present agreement;
- government’s unilateral “wage freeze”;
- the impact of the twin evils of political tribalism and political victimization on the teaching profession;
- the plummeting morale of teachers across the state;
- the declining membership of the SVGTU?
- the lethargic functioning of the only body that represents the interest of teachers ?
Some members of the union may find it hard to accept the view that the acting president may well be going to South Africa on a joy ride. How can the “leader” of an inactive, silent and broken union purport to speak in an international forum on behalf of a demoralized membership? How can one who appears dumb at home go out on the international stage and “speak” on the critical issues that confront the teachers of this country? Is it too late to stop this outrage?