International Labor Organization (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder says the world economic crisis has seriously affected teachers and students around the globe, causing teacher layoffs, cuts in funding, resulting in larger class sizes with fewer resources and reduced teacher salaries. In his World Teachers' Day message last week, Ryder said:
All this has resulted in a decline in the status of teachers. Sadly, it is a profession under siege.
Ryder insisted that “urgent action” is needed to promote sound social dialogue, improve the status of teachers and come up with policies and strategies that attract and motivate people to become teachers.
He also added that freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining remained limited for teachers in many countries.
As part of the annual World Teachers' Day celebration (Oct. 5 this year), AFT, along with Educational International and Amnesty International, is demanding justice for two Bahraini teachers sentenced to prison for standing up for worker rights during Arab Spring demonstrations last year. Some 3,000 people—including many teachers—were dismissed from their jobs and targeted for arrest for taking part in the demonstrations.
The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center reports that Mahdi Abu Dheeb, president of the Bahrain Teachers Association (BTA), and Jalila Al Salman, BTA vice president, have been sentenced to 10 years and three years, respectively, for exercising their right to speech and free association. Al Salman has been released while awaiting her appeal, but Abu Dheeb, who has diabetes, is still imprisoned and suffering from poor health associated with his diabetes and the prison conditions.
The three groups have filed protests on Abu Dheeb's behalf and are working toward his release while he awaits his appeal. The global labor movement and human rights groups also are working on behalf of the many Bahrainis who are suffering from retaliatory acts of the government.
World Teachers' Day (Oct. 5 this year) was created by UNESCO in 1994 and honors “the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels.” The day is the anniversary of the 1966 signing of The Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers adopted by the Special Intergovernmental Task Force on Teachers.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “Teachers devote their lives to helping our kids.”
On this World Teachers' Day, let's stop demonizing teachers and start providing them with the tools and conditions they need to do their jobs and help all kids succeed.
The theme for this year’s celebration was “Take a Stand for Teachers,” and Weingarten said:
By taking a stand for teachers, we are also taking a stand for students. The things that teachers need to do their jobs also help our children learn and grow—smaller class sizes; a robust curriculum; adequate resources; collaboration among teachers to share best practices; and working partnerships among teachers, school administrators and community leaders to explore and implement proven ideas for improving schools.