This year in the IFWEA Training of Trainers course: Digital tools and methods for conducting online trade union activities, DGB Bildungswerk is supporting its partner Public Service International (PSI). Dr. Everline Aketch is the PSI Sub-regional Secretary for English-Speaking Africa, based in Uganda. She speaks to us about her background in organising and education, why she chose to do the course, and how she found it:
Tell us about your experience in organising and education?
I joined a trade union when I was 22, the National Union of Educational Institutions, which was made up mostly of workers from high schools and universities, in both academic and non-teaching positions. The union is an affiliate of PSI. I became Regional Chairperson in control of about seven districts, then Deputy National Women’s Leader of Educational Institutions and later was elected to the position of National Womens’ Leader.
As part of an affiliate organisation I have been associated with PSI since 2001. In 2012, affiliates of PSI in East and West Africa, English-Speaking countries, elected me in to the position of Substitute for Women Leader for the sub-region. I served in that position until 2017, when I was recruited into PSI as the Sub-regional Secretary for English-Speaking Africa for PSI. In this capacity I am in charge of policy and advocacy and training, covering gender equity, GBV, organising strategies, leadership skills, climate change – quite a variety. I am like a jack of all trades!
What is your particular field of interest?
I have been involved in education since 2000. I started out as a cashier in the accounts department at a university, then went on to lecturing in the finance and accounting departments. I have worked and lectured at two universities in Uganda. I am also passionate about defending workers’ and human rights.
How did you hear about the IFWEA Training of Trainers course?
Through our PSI platform.
What made you decide to take the course?
Learning never ends, and I wanted to have additional knowledge, specifically concerning online education. For example, if I want to run courses online, I would like to know what the best platform is. I have used Moodle – and sometimes it has its own challenges. I also wanted to know more about how to take into account diverse audiences, with different skills and backgrounds. I wanted to network, to know what others are doing in different countries, in terms of trade union work and education.
Digital literacy and online organising – what are your thoughts?
Firstly, one must appreciate the challenge of internet connectivity. One needs resources in order to hold successful online meetings, otherwise there are big attrition rates. Group work is sometimes easy, and sometimes difficult. One must be able to adjust – and if things don’t work out well the first time, one mustn’t just give up.
Sometimes there is fatigue in terms of participation. So how do I, as a trainer, get maximum attention? This is an important challenge for me. How do I make online work interesting? How do I make sure everybody gets the floor to speak? Some people may log in, but not participate. How do you control a meeting so that everybody has room to give their contribution? What is the maximum number so everybody can participate? The way I see it, if only two or three dominate a meeting online, then you have not got a quality discussion. So have you really achieved an outcome in terms of equal participation?
That’s why it’s important to know what platforms are the best to use, and how to encourage and support people when connectivity is an issue. The reality is that there is a big difference between how the global north and south are able to conduct online communication. In terms of digital literacy, there is still a big divide. But that doesn’t mean we cannot learn the tools, and run successful trainings.
Since doing the TOT course, you recently conducted an online workshop on C190?
Yes – when we started the course, we were supposed to bring a topic of interest to conduct an online meeting. In our group, one person spoke about GBV and how to make it relevant to young workers. This is how I got the idea.
How did it go?
It went well! We had 11 participants. I targeted young workers, as mentioned, and firstly I got them all to talk about their experiences regarding GBV, and I asked them what they knew about C190. In the last section of the workshop, I explained more about C190 in terms of it being an instrument that can bring about change. The workshop was around an hour long.
What suggestions and thoughts do you have, in terms of the TOT course?
I could appreciate the challenges other groups are having in different countries, even in terms of what platforms can be accessed, and what works best for people. For example, one can’t use Teams unless one has a paid account, so then Zoom is a better option. Facebook is useful, but not necessarily as a serious forum. And WhatsApp can work for short messages, but maybe not for training itself.
I enjoyed the participative element of the course, and I really appreciated the materials. What also made this different from other courses I have done was the interaction with the trainers, particularly Melanie (Julie). She brought a personal edge, she was always there to follow up and give support, and to find out if we needed assistance. This kind of support made a big difference.
There are two things I would suggest, for future courses: to try and align the time zones of the group members, to make things easier. Or alternatively, maybe time flexibility could be a course requirement – so that people know they will be working across different time zones. Secondly, to find out before the course starts what different skills levels people are at.
Would you recommend this course to others in your organisation?
Yes, I would encourage comrades from PSI to sign up.