REPORTAGE

Education for all conference in Addis Ababa
By Wondimu Mekonnen
Posted to the web July 31, 2003
It is to be recalled that The UNESCO's resolution of “Education For All by 2015” was unanimously adopted by Governments of all countries at The Dakar Conference. Unfortunately, 28 countries are feared not be in a position to meet this target. Ethiopia is one of the 28 expected not doing enough to achieve the challenge.

UNESCO has been working with the education professionals and governments of all developing countries. This year’s “Education For All Conference” has been decided to be held in Addis. The responsibility of this task was entrusted to the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA), which is led by the brave sons of Ethiopia, Dr Taye Woldesemiate - President, Ato Gemoraw Kassa – General Secretary, Ato Abate Angore – Acting General Secretary, Ato Awoke Mulugeta – Deputy General Secretary, Mohammed Yimer and others.

It is evident that UNESCO/EI encourage government authorities to actively participate in its plan to carry out the challenge of Education for All by 2015. They have been negotiating their ways and working throughout the world taking governments various countries as a partner in the run. Therefore, UNESCO/EI jointly invited the regime in Ethiopia to come to this Conference as a partner and if need be defend its Education Policy. The invitation put the regime in a very awkward position. The regime was expecting UNESCO/EI to charge the cloned ETA, the puppet of the regime to organise Conference. It is humiliation for the regime such a significan task was, however, went to the persecuted ETA by the regime. Coming to the Conference would mean accepting defeat and acknowledging proper ETA as a legitimate representative of Ethiopian Teachers. Rejecting it means going in direct confrontation against the funding organisations. Finally, the authority announced to the international community and donner countries, Weizero Gennet, the Education Minister and Ato Tefera Walwa, would attend Conference.

UNESCO/EI representatives decided to extend the invitation to the cloned ETA to join the Conference as professional colleagues, interested to educate Ethiopian children. However, the regime’s puppet ETA requested that a letter addressed to them as “ETA” be sent to invite them formally. However, to their humiliation, that name was reserved by UNESCO/EI to the organisers bypassing the puppets.

Today, 30 July 2003, the Conference was formally opened at Ghion Hotel, Saba Hall.

International delegates included:

1. Dr Mary Futrell, EI president, (USA)
2. Dr Linda Asper, EI Deputy G/S (Canada)
3. Mr Tom. Bediako, EI Africa Region Chief Co-ordinator (Ghana)
4. Joanne Edie, Director of International Programs for NEA,
5. Mr Walter Dresscher, AOb president (The Netherlands)
6. Mrs Lesely Auger, NUT president (UK)
7. Mr Steve Sinnott, NUT Deputy G/S (UK)
8. Ms Lucia Fry, VSO staff (UK)
9. South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda Teachers' Unions' representatives

Others international participants were:

1. British Embassy representative
2. Dutch Embassy representative
3. AU (African Union) Education Department representative
4. UNESCO?EI representative
5. ILO Regional Office representative
6.Two senior government officers from DFID (Department For International Development), UK

One hundred and ten (110) seats were planned for local delegates, one from each district of Ethiopia. However, 163 delegates turned up. Weighing the importance of getting the message of “Education for All” across ETA managed to add enough seats to accommodate the 67% extras.

After the delegates took their seats, the seat reserved for the regime’s representatives remained empty. Genet and Tefera did not have the guts to show up, after confirming to the international community that they would attend. Although that was not a surprise to ETA (it would have been rather a surprise had they shown up their faces), this became unbelievable to the international delegates, who were positively expecting their presence. (Incidentally, concerned members of the international delegates have troubled themselves to go and meet the two agents of the regime this afternoon. We will know by tomorrow, what reasons Gennet and Tefara had given them for snapping the invitation of UNESC/EI. Oh, I am dying to hear it).

Dr Taye Woldesemiate, the President of ETA made a brief “WELCOMING” speech, which was received with standing ovation and pride. He then invited Dr Mary Futrell, the President of Education International to take the floor.

Mary’s speech ignited the hall. After explaining the need of the Conference and the plan of 2015, she paid tribute to Ethiopia, as a long standing symbol of freedom of Africa. She pointed out the place of Ethiopia in the ancient history of the world and expressed her strong belief that the country would overcome all the obstacles to regain her honour. She paid tribute to ETA in words that ran like an electric current through the veins of the audience. She said the reason Education International chose to stand by ETA and its leaders is due to the genuine cause for trade and human rights and dedication and commitment of its leaders to the profession. This support and standing by ETA of EI would continue as that was part of the international movement for the freedom of association. She then spelt out what EI expected from the Ethiopian regime. She urged the regime:

1. to open the sealed ETA offices,
2. release frozen bank accounts
3. bring to justice the killers of Mr Assefa Maru
4. secure the safe return of the General Secretary, Mr Gemoraw Kassa,
and 5. implement the Dakar resolution “Education for all” programme. She reiterated that could only be possible by working with the ETA.

Dr Mary Futrell said “I am making this speech on behalf of the 26,000,000 members of EI across the globe. I am here to deliver their message.” She said that ETA set an example for all trade unionists across the globe as the Symbol of 21 Century Trade Union bravery. Please tune to Deutsche Welle to follow up in part what she sounded. (http://www.dwelle.de/amharic/audio.html)

The other person who sent the delegates into flammable emotions was our usual friend, Mr Steve Sinnott of NUT. Steve reiterated the speech of Dr Mary Futrell and paid unreserved appreciation for the exemplarily symbol of 21st Century Trade Union struggle for freedom, the Ethiopian Teachers Association. ETA’s struggle had come that far. Steve said that ETA's president was out of jail. It had deservingly earned the respect of teaching community of the whole world.

The Conference on “Education for All” itself was one such evidence confirming that claim. Its mission, however, was far from complete. It had to double its efforts to achieve the plan of reaching every corner of Ethiopia to carry out the slogan of “Education For All by 2015”. Steve noted that organisationally, there were still unresolved issues. ETA’s offices remained sealed. Its bank accounts remained frozen. Mr Assefa Maru’s murderers roam at large. The General Secretary, Gemoraw Kassa, remained still in exile.

Referring to his own dreams, Mr Steve Sinnott said that his dreams for ETA had partially been fulfilled. He had free Dr Taye on his right and Gemoraw Kassa on his left at a meeting in London with Ethiopian community members at Irish Centre . That was repeated at NUT Conference at Harrogate. Accoring to Steve, what was left was to conclude that rehearsal in Addis. That too would not be too long. After few months Steve promised to be back in Addis to have Dr Taye on his right and Gemoraw on his left. To this, the delegates expressed their appreciation with a loud applaud and cheers.

Mr Walter Dresscher, AOb president (The Netherlands) made a very warmly received speech, admiring the dedication of ETA and the need of carrying out to the letter the Dakar resolution on education. Mr Walter promised that the Netherlands teachers would stand by ETA in struggle for the rights of teachers and freedom of education.

Ms Joanne Edie, Director of International Programs for NEA (EU) also reiterated the same message with the emphasis on the bravery of ETA and the to carry out the UNESCO mission “Education for All”.

Mr Tom Bediako, EI Africa Region Chief Co-ordinator (Ghana), who has been behind ETA’s cause since ETA’s hardship started, gave a very moving speech, admiring as everybody else but as the first hand witness of the bravery of this trade unionists and reiterating to carry out the mission of getting education to every child in Ethiopia.

International delegates rose up turn-by-turn and echoed the same message as presented by Dr Mary Futrell and Mr Steve Sinnott and others.

In the Afternoon, Professor Mesfin Woldemariam was among the main speakers. We do not have details of his speech. We will bring you by tomorrow.

The Conference will continue tomorrow.

What does this signify. I don't know about you, what you make out of it. However, I see another victory for ETA. ETA snatched one prestigeous forum from this regime. The regime became helpless in the face of clever moves of ETA. While the regimes delegates should have been entertaining international delegates, the show had been taken away by these brave sons and daughters of Ethiopia. This the kind of victory every one should score in his area.

ETA is a trade union. It is delivering its reponsiblities. Let us all do our shares.


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