The Gambia Teachers’ Union (GTU) and the Syndicat unique et démocratique des enseignants du Sénégal (SUDES), both affiliated to Education International (EI), have set up a joint exchange programme to provide quality professional training experiences to teachers of both countries.
This latest initiative builds on a partnership agreement signed by GTU and SUDES in 2007. Since then they have exchanged ideas and practices focusing on trade unionism, their respective experiences of organising, and the functioning of The Gambia and Senegal’s education systems.
Mutually beneficial interactions
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Representative of the two organisations also attend various ceremonies in the presence of official authorities of both countries. One such occasion is Senegambia Brotherhood Day, celebrated every second February, alternately in the Gambia and Senegal. This strengthens the solidarity and mutual cooperation among member organisations sharing the same cultural and religious ties amongst other things. This date was chosen to celebrate the memory of the Senegambia Confederation, a project aiming at the reunification of the two peoples. This symbolic date is also an expression of the commitment of teachers’ unions from both countries to help their two peoples and their two governments to work towards consolidating and deepening the unity of the Senegambia’s people.
Other interactions include a visit by a group of teacher unionists from Senegal to The Gambia on two occasions; another visit is scheduled for Banjul on 1 September 2014.
In addition, a joint fundraising and cultural show will take in Dakar, Senegal, on 10 May 2014. A GTU delegation will travel with retired teacher and renowned Gambian musician, Jaliba Kuyateh, to join other Senegalese cultural personalities.
Twinning between some Gambian and Senegalese schools and universities is also planned.
“These exchanges are sources of development, human relations, and mutually beneficial experiences,” says SUDES National General Secretary Dr. Amadou Diaoune. “They bring us closer, which is the goal.
The SUDES and GTU cooperation also helped to bypass the obstacle of linguistic differences based on the French and English through the use of the Wolof language to communicate with each other.
“The capacity of the local GTU leadership will be strengthened”, she adds, “making them more effective in their participation in national statutory committees or education boards in which they sit. They will increase the knowledge transfer benefits by facilitating the provision of responsive, relevant, and quality education to all Gambians.”
For SUDES, the presentations and discussions on the organisation and functioning of the respective educational systems have revealed similarities in situations and approaches to solutions. The provision of quality education for all, especially girls’ enrolment and retention in school, is a key concern for both GTU and SUDES. Both unions are striving to achieve these common objectives, particularly by getting involved in EI’s “Unite for Quality Education” campaign. The common affiliation to EI has also contributed to their close collaboration.
Various incentives to this South-South cooperation
Dr. Diaoune says “We share vital and relevant information relating to teacher welfare and professional development issues, emphasising the management of girls’ education and the education of children living under difficult circumstances. Also, the study tour focusing on the SUDES housing scheme provided a lot of inspiration in our quest to providing shelter for teachers.”
The opportunities to establish twinning programmes between Gambian and Senegalese schools are also very encouraging, she says.
“The people of Senegal and Gambia are intertwined forever, and absolutely nothing, not even colonisation or imposed foreign languages, can break these cultural ties and blood,” adds Diaoune. “We try to develop a fruitful South-South cooperation to contribute to the leadership of a dynamic sub-regional integration.”
Extending this cooperation
Part of that cooperation led to GTU’s move to lead the process of establishing a functional sub-regional group, said Antoinette Corr-Jack, General Secretary of GTU. “We have since shared our desire to establish the West African Teachers’ Organisation with the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) during a recent working visit of the NUT General Secretary, National Treasurer, and Coordinator for training in Banjul.”
“We intend to share the idea with Ghana National Association of Teachers and ask for support from the EI Africa Office to coordinate the process. The initial idea of such extended cooperation was conceived during an EI and Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s training meeting held in Ghana.”
Diaoune echoes her statement, highlighting that a provision of the GTU-SUDES partnership agreement clearly states that GTU and SUDES strengthen South-South cooperation in Area Two of the EI African Region. To this end, SUDES serves as a link between GTU and French unions; GTU is the link between SUDES and Anglophones unions. “Let us reach to other unions for the same purposes, including the creation of a space to exchange ideas about educational and labour issues in the sub-region and across the West-African region.”
Obviously, this type of cooperation, be it bilateral or multilateral, is heading towards a bright future if there is a strong desire from trade unions to help promote African integration in the best interest of the peoples and the continent, he goes on to say.
EI: Great example of teachers’ solidarity
“The strong cooperation that has been built over the years between GTU and SUDES is a great example of teachers’ solidarity worldwide,” says EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Sharing professional experience is the best way for educators to enhance their teaching knowledge and skills and provide quality education for all.”
Unite for Quality Education is a campaign of Education International (EI), the voice of teachers and other education employees across the globe. Join the 30 million members EI represents (through its 400 affiliated organisations in more than 170 countries and territories) to demand that quality education for all remains at the top of the agenda for a sustainable, peaceful and prosperous future.