NEA’s Van Roekel Elected Vice President of Education International
By Leona Hiraoka
CAPE TOWN – NEA President Dennis Van Roekel was elected vice president of Education International (EI) at the organization’s 6th World Congress here today.
EI’s July 22-26 conference, centered on the theme of “Building the Future Through Quality Education,” has brought together some 1,800 delegates from unions in 154 countries. Officials including South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and UNESCO Director-general Irina Bokova addressed the opening plenary, and the choir from local Wellington High School brought the crowd at the Cape Town International Convention Centre the student voice in song.
Van Roekel starts his four-year term as EI’s vice president for North America at a time when public sector unions around the world face growing challenges.
“It’s an honor to represent educators across North America and the Caribbean as an EI officer,” Van Roekel notes. “The challenges we face at home on issues like collective bargaining, raising student achievement, and adequate funding resonate around the world. NEA’s involvement internationally is based on the fact that in a global society, we must pursue a common course of action.”
EI President Susan Hopgood echoed that sentiment in her opening remarks. “Public education is under unprecedented attack, both in countries that built their prosperity on public education, and in the countries that still aspire to achieve quality education for all.
“Education remains the key to overcome poverty and injustice, and to achieve peace, social cohesion, and human dignity in this world,” Hopgood added. “But the greatest obstacle to the achievement of quality education for all remains the lack of political will of governments.”
In 2000, the United Nations set Millennium Development Goal of providing universal primary education by 2015. At that point, some 105 million primary age children were not in school. That number has dropped to 67 million today, but estimates indicate that by the 2015 target date, 56 million children of primary school age will still not be in a classroom.
It’s within that framework that EI begins the work of the 6th World Congress.
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