Lithuanian Education Trade Union (LESTU)
My organisation, the Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union (LESTU), was very active in tackling the consequences of coronavirus in the education sector, dealing with employment and working conditions on the one hand and professional issues on the other, including involvement and consultation of education trade unions to develop distance learning measures.
Immediately after the unexpected COVID-19 quarantine announcement and after the education system's sudden shift to online learning, our union provided full support for teachers and learners, also by creating a COVID-19 information page on our website, where we posted recommendations and provided legal advice and support: https://www.svietimoprofsajunga.lt/informacija-apie-covid-19/.
We also set up a Distance learning ideas page and provided our members and all educators with useful ideas and tools for e-teaching and e-learning, and facilitated exchange of teaching materials, etc.: https://www.svietimoprofsajunga.lt/nuotolinio-mokymo-si-idejos/.
At the same time, we called on the government to provide digital infrastructure, equipment, teaching and learning materials and ensure equal access for all teaching staff and students to remote education material. We called for education trade unions to be involved and for the social dialogue to be respected in the process of developing and implementing education measures to respond to the pandemic. We actively participated in consultations on those issues. We focused especially on the impact of the transition to distance education on teaching staff’s employment and working conditions, with particular regard for the workers in the most insecure job situations. We are glad to report that not one of them lost their jobs and all education employees' pay was guaranteed during the lockdown (which will end on 17 June).
Even though, in principle, distance education is now becoming the "new norm", careful assessment is still needed of how students and teachers have adapted to the change to online learning. Serious consideration needs to be given to whether the traditional style of teaching is still effective and to how we can ensure the continuity and accessibility of teaching as lessons are transferred from classrooms to lessons online. We must focus on the special needs students and socially disadvantaged pupils who have suffered during e-learning because it was the only form of teaching provided and no social support was available. We are concerned that digital inequality might grow, and so we are calling for equal access to quality education during, and long after the COVID-19 pandemic, with sufficient funding.