One would assume that the Ministry of Education of an EU member state would be the first to champion Human Rights in both words and deeds. Indeed, one would expect that this would extend to the way educators are treated in the course of their employment by the said ministry. Unfortunately, locally, this is not the case.
The way successive administrations have dealt with educators employed within the state school sector beggars belief. Apart from abysmal working conditions, the whole set-up within which educators are expected to function cries out for attention. The UPE sustains that the whole scenario is a minefield of worker exploitation and tantamount to potential human rights violations. The right to safety, private and family life, as well as to life itself are all seriously jeopardized by oppressive practices which need to be re-dimensioned. Educators are workers not slaves.
In this respect, the UPE solicits the newly appointed Minister of Education to address these vital issues with urgency. It would not help if the lack of social dialogue which hitherto has characterized relations with this ministry continues to solidify as an institutionalized malpractice. Educators rightfully expect that their right to freedom of association and representation are effectively enforced. Moreover, educators expect that their grave concerns are taken on board and acted upon. Dismissing divergent opinions and suppressing dissenting views are certainly not the way to carry us forward out of the current sorry predicament.
Educators are placing their hopes in the new minister. The UPE sincerely hopes that this trust will not be misplaced. The Union urges the minister not to waste the opportunity to right these wrongs from the outset of her ministerial duties. Shall educators continue to be victimised for speaking out or, worse still, for following legitimate union directives? Shall educators continue to be transferred for reporting harassment or flagging health and safety concerns? Shall educators continue to be exposed to potentially risky work practices without adequate information being provided on health and safety issues? Are educators still going to be expected to risk their safety and lives as a matter of course and without due regard or recognition? Above all, will the minister pick up these challenges and treat educators with the dignity they deserve?
The UPE firmly believes that it is high time that the education ministry seriously addresses these issues. The appointment of a new minister bring about a renewed hope for positive change. This said, the UPE will not tolerate the continuance of disregard for educators’ human rights. We will not spare any legal remedy available to us for our members to be treated with the dignity and respect which they deserve. The UPE will never tire of advancing its members’ sacrosanct rights be it in local or in international fora. We are prepped up for action and will leave no stone unturned.