The Caribbean Union of Teachers is over 75 years old. The organization came into being on August 21, 1935, at its inaugural meeting in Trinidad and Tobago as the West Indies Teachers’ Association. This came at a time in the Caribbean history when the working class was intensifying its efforts to dismantle the colonial apparatus in its struggle for improvement of living conditions of workers. The CUT has always reflected and symbolized the spirit of Caribbean unity, which mirrors the historical and cultural experiences of the region.
The CUT views teachers as an integral part of the working people who constitute the majority of Caribbean society. As such, it recognizes the need for teachers and teachers’ organizations. It further recognizes teachers as professionals who must work relentlessly to improve professional standards and who must show commitment to students, community and education.
As an organization, the CUT is guided by its Mission Statement which states that it is the umbrella organization for teachers’ in the Caribbean and is dedicated to the efforts to further the cause of teacher unions: to promote the status, interest and welfare of teachers; to improve the quality of education in the Caribbean and to unite the peoples of the region.
In 1999, the CUT and Education International (EI) entered into an agreement, under which the CUT became an autonomous body within the structure of EI. The CUT is thus the recognized representative body for teachers in the Caribbean. Both organizations have collaborated on a number of programmes and projects in the region which have benefitted teachers and their representative organizations. The CUT has also collaborated with other international organizations including the Commonwealth Secretariat. The CUT was represented at, and actively participated in the meetings leading to the signing of the Protocol for the Recruitment of Commonwealth Teachers by Ministers of Education in the Commonwealth at Stoke Rochford Hall, United Kingdom on September 1, 2004. The Protocol is a document which “aims to balance the rights of teachers to migrate internationally against the need to protect the integrity of national education systems”.
The CUT is also a member of the Co-ordinating Committee of the Commonwealth Teachers’ Grouping (CTG), a body within Education International which seeks to promote the best interests of teachers and education in the Commonwealth. The CTG has organized Teachers’ Forums as a parallel activity to the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM). The first was held in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2007 and the second in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2009.
The Canadian Teachers Federation (CTF) has also been a close partner with the CUT for over 30 years in programmes to build the capacity of teachers’ unions in the region and also programmes for the professional advancement of teachers. These programmes have been part of CTF’s Project Overseas and its John Thompson Programme. The CUT has also collaborated with the National Education Association (NEA), USA in similar activities in the region.
The CUT is also involved with a number of regional institutions. It is recognized as a body with which CARICOM can collaborate on education issues. It is represented on the CARICOM Task Force for Education and has participated in consultations on the establishment of Teaching Councils in member states of CARICOM. Work with CXC has also intensified and several meetings have been held on issues pertinent to education. The CUT also played a part in developing the document for Latin America and the Caribbean on Education For All. The document formed a part of the proceedings of the World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal. The major outcome was the Dakar Framework for Action.
The CUT, in focusing on professional development for its member units, developed a policy on health and safety, which has been endorsed by its affiliate members. It is now in the process of developing a policy on school safety and security to include measures to minimize violence and indiscipline in schools in the region.
Every two years, the CUT brings together children from across the region for the CUT’s Biennial Athletic Championships. A number of outstanding athletes have emerged from these championships. These championships are the only ones held for the under-15 age group in the region. The CUT also organizes the Les Harris Cricket Competition for teachers.
The CUT hosts its delegates conference biennially where it elects its officers for the ensuing biennium and sets policies to govern its activities and programmes for the period. The location of its Secretariat is also selected at that time. The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) currently hosts the Secretariat and has done so since 1999.
The CUT is one of the finest examples of regional integration in the Caribbean. It has managed to harness the collective wisdom from a membership that extends from Bermuda in the north to Surinam in the south and Belize in the west. The CUT has been striving to create a united voice on teachers’ issues across the Caribbean. Teachers’ unions/organizations from the following countries are members of CUT:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- St. Kitts
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- St. Maarten
The CUT regards education as a sacred trust and will encourage our teachers to provide learners with knowledge, wisdom, hope and the spirit to guide them. The CUT will keep pressing our governments until they understand what Egerton Ryerson (1847) said, “Education is a necessary light, it should be common as water and free as the air.”.
The umbrella organization for teachers’ in the Caribbean and is dedicated to the efforts to further the cause of teacher unions: to promote the status, interest and welfare of teachers; to improve the quality of education in the Caribbean and to unite the peoples of the region.
Mrs. Vernest Mack
Mr. Michael Stewart