Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Empowering educators: Ethiopian Teachers’ Association’s path to empowerment

The Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) was established in February 1949 by 32 teachers from Minilik Senior Secondary School. Over the past 70 years, the ETA has been a pivotal organization, dedicated to representing the interests and rights of teachers in Ethiopia. Alongside its commitment to striving for quality education, the association now stands at a significant milestone, prompting a moment of reflection on its journey while simultaneously confronting the persistent challenges it has faced.

One of the most daunting hurdles faced by the Association is the political landscape in which it operates. Since its inception, the ETA has clashed with undemocratic systems that have impeded its advocacy efforts. Leaders such as Taye W/semayat and his colleagues have endured persecution and imprisonment for simply demanding their rights. Today, the struggle for freedom of association remains an urgent issue, particularly in private schools and universities across Ethiopia.

Moreover, the interference of the Ethiopian government in the affairs of the ETA has compounded these challenges. Reports from Human Rights Watch and the International Labor Organization have highlighted the government’s control over the association, greatly limiting its effectiveness in advocating for teachers’ rights and interests. This interference has stifled the ETA’s efforts to improve the welfare of teachers and enhance the quality of education in the country.

Research and reports have shed light on the difficult circumstances faced by teachers in Ethiopia. Inadequate income, substandard living conditions, a lack of professional development opportunities, heavy workloads, and limited resources in schools all contribute to a challenging work environment for Ethiopian teachers. These factors not only impact teachers’ quality of life but also hinder their ability to provide a high standard of education to their students.

Recently, a distressing number of trained teachers have been compelled to abandon their profession in search of better prospects, resulting in teaching being ranked as the least desirable career among today’s youth and students.

To surmount these challenges, a collaborative effort involving all stakeholders is of paramount importance.

The government must fulfill its commitment, as good intentions alone are insufficient without concrete action. It is imperative for courageous and independent ETA leadership, who are determined to challenge the government and safeguard the rights and benefits of ETA members, to step forward and organize the membership.

The primary purpose of a trade union is to protect the rights of its members, rather than aligning with the government and engaging in political maneuvers under the guise of helping less fortunate teachers.

While some progress has been made, such as the provision of condominium houses to 5,000 teachers in Addis Ababa, this represents only a small step toward addressing the nationwide issue of teacher housing. Housing concerns extend beyond Addis Ababa and affect teachers throughout the country. The Association, government, and private sector must collaborate to find sustainable solutions that prioritize the well-being and professional development of Ethiopian teachers. Recognizing and supporting the pivotal role that teachers play in shaping the nation’s future through education is crucial for building a robust education sector in Ethiopia.

In model countries like Japan, several best practices exist for respecting and motivating teachers. Firstly, there is a strong culture of reverence for educators in Japanese society. Teachers are highly esteemed, and their opinions are listened to and taken seriously. This respect is evident not only in the way teachers are treated by students and parents but also in the support they receive from their schools and the government. Teachers are also provided with ongoing professional development opportunities to continuously enhance their skills and stay abreast of the latest educational trends. This investment in their growth and development serves as motivation for teachers to excel in their roles and deliver high-quality education to their students.

Overall, the combination of respect, support, and growth opportunities creates a positive and motivating environment for teachers in model countries like Japan.

In conclusion, overcoming the challenges faced by Ethiopian teachers is pivotal for enhancing the quality of education in the country and fostering its development. By acknowledging the concerns of teachers, supporting their rights, and addressing the systemic issues that hinder their work, Ethiopia can create a more conducive environment for educators to thrive and empower future generations.

The Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) must continue its crucial work of advocating for teachers and ensuring they receive the support and recognition they deserve. As an age-old civic organization, the reorientation of strategies seems to hold paramount significance in the process of improving the lives of Ethiopian teachers who are low-paid, low-motivated, and exposed to substandard living conditions compared to many other African countries.

By Amare Gebru

(Amare Gebru holds a MA in Special Needs Education and MA in Social Psychology from Addis Ababa University. He is a PhD candidate)


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