At the invitation of CPERS, the 100-000 strong teachers´ union of the Rio Grande do Sul state, I have travelled to the World Social Forum in Brasil. The Social Forum gathers together a wide range of organisations and campaigns to discuss building an alternative to the ´neo-liberal´ attacks coming from many of the world´s governments.
It has been a tremendous opportunity to discuss, particularly with teachers and trade unionists, about the common battles we face against cuts, privatisation and governments who are seeking to undermine trade unions.
I have been able to explain to Brasilian colleagues about the battles teachers face in England and Wales. In turn, I have discussed their struggles - in a country where arrests on demonstrations and repression of activists are still too common. CPERS have been battling against the state governor´s attacks on trade unions (and her corruption) while teachers in neigbouring Sao Paulo state face a battle against attempts to make teachers pass a ´test´ to continue in work - rather like the threatened ´MOT for teachers´ back home.
Speaking from the platform to a meeting of 600 teachers called by CPERS to discuss íf ´another education is possible´, I outlined the struggles facing teachers in Britain, whoever wins the next election. The audience reaction to my criticism of inspectors who had little recent experience of teaching themselves showed that OFSTED-style criticism is certainly not just an English problem!
I concluded that ´another education is possible ´ but only if we mobilise trade unions and communities to fight to win it. Another - much worse - education is also threatened if we allow cuts and privatisation to take hold.
Brasil also faces national elections this year and I also attended a fringe meeting addresssed by Plinio, who will hopefully be selected as a joint left candidate for President. Once again, I was able to bring support from trade unionists in England who - like them - are battling to challenge the privatising politicians at the ballot box as well as through trade union action.
CPERS are known as one of the best organised and most militant unions in Brasil. I hope that we can keep up links between CPERS and the NUT - and particularly with supporters of Classroom Teacher who are campaigning to build a determined Union. I distributed a few copies of the latest ´Classroom Teacher´ to CPERS members so that they could read about the struggles we face on cuts, academies and workload.
I am also hoping to meet members of the executive of the teachers´ union of Sao Paulo state before I leave Brasil. I will post a further report when I return to England.