MENA Solidarity Network has organised for Mohamed Sghaier Saihi, spokesperson for the teachers’ union in the UGTT union federation in the Kasserine region of Tunisia, to visit the UK at the invitation of the Ealing and Oxford local associations of the National Union of Teachers. Read more on Kasserine’s struggle since the Tunisian revolution here.
Mohamed paid a visit to the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers on Wednesday 14 November, with a national executive member Nick Grant.
They met for half-an-hour with its Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney. In conversation it became very clear that very similar concerns are shared by teacher unions in both countries – pensions, pay and conditions at work.
Mohamed explained how the agreement signed with the education Minister at the start of 2011 has been ripped up by the Ennadha government elected afterwards.
In fact Tunisian teachers will start a national campaign of strike action next Thursday 22 November, which will probably escalate as weeks go by.
Kevin promised to send a message of solidarity from the NUT. He also gave Mohamed a copy of the book showing how a Camden school twinned with one in Palestine, which Mohamed would like to develop between UK and Tunisian schools.
The NUT also shares Mohamed’s view of religious tolerance in schools, allowing the wearing of hijab in schools, for example, where previously this was banned. Mohamed sees no contradiction between being a left-wing political person and being a Muslim believer.
But the current government tries to make this impossible, claiming that secular liberals are against Islam, whilst also encouraging radical Salafist elements.