The virtual Board of Directors of the ESN took place online from the 6th to the 22nd of November 2020. The directors of the ESN also met via videoconference to discuss their ongoing matters, the administrative and regulatory aspects of the association, as well as the topics and approaches of the ESN for 2021.
At the opening of the meeting, the ESN directors, who are representatives of education and health organisations, expressed how significant is the impact of the pandemic on the working conditions of their members, activists, and on the continuation of their activities.
– Luc Beauregard, from the Quebec Confederation of Trade Unions or CSQ (French: Centrale des Syndicats du Québec), mentioned that the isolation of pupils and their angst also affect the results, with a sharp increase in the failure rate. Regarding occupational health, the CSQ continues to raise awareness of the psychological consequences of unhealthy organisational practices or work environments.
– From Colombia, Elisa Torrenegra (Gestarsalud) explained that the country’s mutual insurances have been very active in managing close contacts. During the lockdown, Gestarsalud continued several remote training actions on health promotion and Covid prevention, which also helped maintaining the level of commitment and mobilisation of communities on health issues.
– In the United States, the election and the pandemic caused great consternation as well as a division of the country. The American union NEA (3 million members) focused its efforts on the American election and mobilisation for Trump’s defeat, as well as on supporting its members in meeting the challenge of teaching in a virtual world. The pandemic remains a major problem in the United States: half of Americans are opposed to vaccination or believe that the pandemic is a conspiracy.
– After a presentation of the actions of the mutual insurance MGEN in France in the context of the health crisis, François Chabrissoux (MGEN) concluded by reminding that the crisis highlights the highly topical issue of the question of the evolution of our societies towards more solidarity, recognition, care for people and the environment. Mylène Bonnel (MGEN) expressed how much she was astonished by the terrorist attack on the fellow teacher Samuel Paty and mentioned the importance of accompanying actions on the issue of secularism, the values of solidarity, sharing and mutual aid.
– Christian Chevalier, representative of UNSA-Education (France), underlined the relevance of the name of the “Education” and “Solidarity” Network, at a time of a crisis weakening the education systems and calling on the entire society to show solidarity, both “moral” and “concrete”. He recalled that the crisis emphasised the limits of neoliberalism, and the importance of the Social and Solidarity Economy in rethinking economic models.
– Alain Coheur, representative of the International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies (AIM), presented the renewal of AIM’s bodies and the latest publications and position papers of the organisation.
– Nicolas Richards, representative of Education International (EI), provided feedback on the mobilisation of teachers for World Teachers’ Day and presented the continuation of advocacy and support actions for EI affiliates in this time of crisis.
The videoconference was also an opportunity to review the decisions adopted during the online Board of Directors. In addition, a period of time was dedicated to discussing the topics and approaches of the ESN for 2021. Regarding the topics on which the ESN should focus its actions, the members highlighted the importance of dealing with the subject of teachers’ mental health in depth. Topics related to food security, the promotion of vaccination but also climate change education, at the heart of the concerns of ESN organisations, will receive an increasing attention within the Network.
Through its topics and projects, at the crossroads between health and education, the directors stressed the relevance of these international exchange spaces and the importance of continuing to strengthen the connections that can be made through the RES, remotely.