Educators of the World, Unite!
A free, quality public education is a fundamental human right for all.
I see the face of a child. She has a beautiful, shy smile. She lives in a huge, sprawling shantytown in a developing country. She is dark-skinned. Her nationality doesn’t matter. What matters is that she is a child with all of the dazzling potential of a child.
She sleeps the sleep of a child, and she dreams the dreams of a child. And yet, when she awakens, she awakens to a living nightmare of poverty, despair, and ignorance. She has never spent a single day of her life in school. Instead, every morning, she accompanies her mother to a huge garbage dump, where they pick through mountains of debris, looking for something, anything, to sell. At day’s end, she and her mother trudge home, carrying over their shoulders, in burlap sacks, what they’ve collected. This girl is illiterate, she’s malnourished, and she knows nothing about HIV/AIDS, but soon she will be a young woman.
I think about this girl when I am doing Education International (EI) work, for there are millions upon millions just like her around the world. And when I consider the work that NEA does with EI, I think it will not be in vain if just one child, like the girl I’ve described, gets the chance to go to school.
It has been said that educators care more than others think is wise; risk more than others think is safe; dream more than others think is practical; and expect more than others think is possible. And I, for one, know it’s true, and it fills me with pride.
NEA’s membership in Education International (www.ei-ie.org) affords us, as educators, the opportunity to link arms with other caring educators around the world—more than 29 million of them, in fact—and to raise our voices on behalf of the children of the world, and on behalf of our profession.
It is a fundamental human right for all to have a free, quality public education. Education International is dedicated to this ideal. And EI is the number one advocate in the world today for teachers and public schools. That is why EI has NEA’s full support.
I was recently elected Vice President of Education International, and it was a great honor. After all, NEA is a founding member of Education International and NEA’s Mary Hatwood Futrell is the founding president. Plus, the Association is the largest affiliate among EI’s membership of 348 national education unions in 166 countries.
Faced with the magnitude and the multitude of challenges around the world—war, famine, disease, and oppression—there is an understandable tendency for people to feel overwhelmed and to withdraw into their private shells. But there is another option. It is for us to say to ourselves: I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And I will not refuse to do something because I cannot do everything.
I will do what I can and keep on doing it. For more information about what you can do, join NEA’s international listserv. Details can be found at: www.nea.org/international.
Educators everywhere need to work together, because a great public school is a basic right for every child, whether that child lives in Idaho or Indonesia, Addis Ababa or Altoona.
Years ago, I saw tacked onto a teachers’ bulletin board the following quote: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I don’t know who wrote it, but I do know it applies perfectly to the work we, as educators, do in our schools, communities, states, and internationally.
Team NEA, we are making a difference. Thank you for caring, and thank you for all that you do. Your generosity of spirit and your commitment to the cause of children and public education everywhere inspire me.