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Much can be achieved in a short time when teachers’ union representatives from all over the world share their skills with less experienced unionists. BY CYNDI TEBBEL

Earthshaking developments


ary Franklyn was shaken to the core when she represented the AEU in an international group of teachers’ union trainers who visited New Delhi, India, in late last year. Literally shaken, that is, because an earthquake interrupted a training session. “As the building shook, nobody moved,” says Franklyn, general secretary of the State School Teachers’ Union of Western Australia. “There were no [health and safety] procedures, so I went into panic mode and said, ‘We’re evacuating!’” Franklyn and trainers from teachers' unions in Canada, France and Malaysia visited New Delhi as part of the John Thompson Fellowship Union Leadership Program Asia XIV. This Education International (EI) initiative, to which the AEU contributes funding through the International Trust Fund, offered three weeks of training to state affiliates of the All India Primary Teachers Federation. Participants engaged in workshops to increase their skills in negotiation, social dialogue, and financial, communications and strategic planning – the skills that define effective union leadership. The earthquake aside, Franklyn experienced a ‘seismic’ shift in her appreciation of certain aspects of Indian culture. In particular, the ability of local unionists to organise without a traditional financial framework. “I was there to train others, but I learned as much as the participants.” Union membership is strong in India, but most members don’t pay dues and union officials don’t receive a salary. Union officials are full-time teachers. Almost everything they do is typically outside school and family hours. “Yet when they call a strike, they get everyone out,” notes Franklyn.

One of the major achievements was the solidarity built up among the participating organisations and leaders.

Shashi Bala Singh Education International

Gender balancing Awareness of and support for gender equality is growing in India, but few women occupy positions in the top levels of teachers unions. EI sought to redress this by mandating gender, and generational, balance for October’s program. Twelve of the 24 participants were relatively young female union leaders and classroom teachers from various parts of the country including geographically tough and remote areas. It wasn’t easy for them. One woman was permitted to attend only after her husband had deemed it ‘appropriate’, and all had to work hard in making arrangements for their homes and children in their absence. The training was extremely useful in helping to enhance participants’

leadership and managerial skills, says Shashi Bala Singh, chief coordinator in EI’s Asia-Pacific Regional office. “One of the major achievements was the solidarity build-up among the participating organisations and leaders,” she says. “They exchanged information without hesitation in a very transparent way, helping each other find solutions to the problems unions are facing in their day-to-day operations.” For Franklyn, the biggest takeaway was the realisation that teachers everywhere have universal goals. “They share our commitments to children having access to quality education, and they face the same threats to achieving that goal – governmental interference, lack of funding, privatisation and increased workloads.” l Cyndi Tebbel is a freelance writer.

Global aims The AEU’s International Trust Fund promotes the global development of teachers’ organisations. The ITF provides funding to support the John Thompson Fellowship Program’s aims of improving the information exchange and understanding between Australia and other countries, and furthering the professional development of teachers and extending educational opportunities for all children. The program, launched in 1982 by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, is dedicated to the memory of John M Thompson, a former secretary-general of the World Confederation of Organisations of the Teaching Profession and a distinguished international advocate for education and peace. AU STRA L IA N ED U CATO R 91 SP R IN G 2 0 1 6 2 7

Educator spring 2016  
Educator spring 2016