NUT’s Celebration of the life of Steve Sinnott
By Yeneneh Woldegebriel
NUT’s celebration of the life of Mr Steve Sinnott, the late General Secretary of the National Unions of Teachers (NUT), was held on Saturday 21st June 2008 at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster between 1:30 PM to 5:30 PM. Mr Steve’s public memorial service was well attended, the hall was packed with people from all walks of life and representatives from different organisations including the British government.
Because of Mr Steve’s special love for Ethiopia and ETA (Ethiopian Teachers Association), Mr Steve’s family and the organisers of the event made sure that not only were ETA and the Ethiopian Community in London were invited, but also the highest number of invitation tickets (sixty) was allocated to the Ethiopian Community than any other single organisation. This is undoubtedly a privilege as a result of a long and sustained lobbying by the ETA Support Group and the wider Ethiopian Community in London. The Ethiopian Community in London should be proud of its achievement.
It is to be remembered that the sudden death of Mr Steve Sinnott on 5th of April/2008 broke the heart of ETA and the Ethiopian Community in London. Many found it extremely difficult to come to terms with the untimely and sudden loss of Ethiopia’s true and tested friend. As a sign of respect, immediately after Mr Steve’s death, many Ethiopians were discussing how best to participate in Mr Steve’s funeral service. But, unfortunately, the funeral service was held in private and the Ethiopian community did not get the chance to show their respect to the man they loved most and who in turn loved their country with no bound.
So, as soon as the public memorial service was announced, many Ethiopians were more than willing to cancel their previous engagement to attend the event. Many Ethiopians indeed attended the event. Our women particularly stood out from the crowd and made the celebration of Mr Steve’s life more colourful by wearing our traditional dress.
For those who have not heard about Mr Steve Sinnott so far: he was a devoted family man, a down to earth friendly person, an inspirational teacher, a true international trade unionist, a staunch supporter of education for all, a campaigner of the right to education as fundamental human right, a campaigner of make poverty history, etc.
For Ethiopians, Mr Steve was simply a special friend. He has touched the hearts of ETA and Ethiopians in London as a result of his firm stand against dictatorship in Ethiopia. He has deservedly commanded a special place in the hearts of Ethiopians in London. He was a trusted friend with a genuine and unparalleled love for Ethiopia, a staunch supporter of ETA, an advocate of Ethiopia in the West, an advocate of the respect of Trade Unions and Human Rights in Ethiopia, etc.
Many of the speakers gave a brief and touching account of Mr Steve’s life. However, there was one common theme in almost all the speeches no attendee would miss: almost all the speakers were mentioning Ethiopia one way or the other when they testified the life of Mr Steve.
As an Ethiopian who has lived in the UK for so long, I have never seen an event organized by the British, attended largely by the British and the international community which ended up advocating the positive side of Ethiopia as well. It seems to me as if it were impossible to give an accurate life account of Mr Steve with out mentioning his love for Ethiopia. Mr Steve and Ethiopia just seemed inseparable by most speakers. That was what transpired at the packed hall comprising people from different walks of life. My Ethiopian heart was filled with great joy when I observed this and tears of joy were running down my cheeks.
Just to give you the taste of the speech about Ethiopia:
‘…..one of my most memorable time with my dad was having beautiful Ethiopian food at Ethiopian Community in North London and to see my dad joining Ethiopian traditional dance afterwards…..’, Kate Laventure, daughter of Mr Steve.
‘…..Steve was a campaigner for education and trade unions rights for Africa, especially Ethiopia…..’, Amanda Martin, young NUT member and activist.
‘…..Steve was a staunch supporter of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Teachers Association……’, Fred Van Leeuwen, General Secretary, Education International.
‘……The Human and Trade Unions work on Ethiopia by Steve was executed efficiently and professionally…….’ Owain James, Global Co-ordinator, Global Campaign for Education.
‘…….Dad extremely loves Ethiopia and his true friend, Gemoraw Kassa, Ethiopian Teachers Association General Secretary……….I know, dad believes, the release of Dr Taye from prison was one of his finest achievements in his international trade union duty……….’
As a fitting tribute to his dedication to ETA, trade unionism and his close personal friendship to the late Mr Steve Sinnott, Ato Gemoraw Kassa, ETA’s General Secretary, was one of the guest speakers in the event. Ato Gemoraw briefly highlighted Mr Steve’s invaluable contribution in disseminating the murder of the late Ato Asefa Maru to the world, the release of Dr Taye from prison and the all rounded campaign to the West regarding the persecution of teachers particularly that of ETA. Ato Gemoraw stressed Mr Steve’s participation in the many and various public meetings, vigils and demonstrations called by the Ethiopian Community in London against the infringement of Trade Union and Human Rights by the Ethiopian regime.
Ato Gemoraw also stressed how Mr Steve was a friend in need while he was in exile in the UK to him and his family and when he returned to Ethiopia after exile as someone who enormously cares about his personal safety. Ato Gemoraw concluded his speech by reminding all that the best way to honour and remember Mr Steve is to continue working on the values and principles Mr Steve was fighting for.
In conclusion, to Mr Steve Sinnott, who was a true lover and advocate of Ethiopia, I am positive that the Ethiopian Community in London will do something to celebrate the life of Mr Steve. I believe, Mr Steve’s love and dedication to the cause of Ethiopia at least warrant us, Ethiopians, to think of a lasting legacy for Mr Steve Sinnott. Mr Steve was a special friend to Ethiopia and he has to be treated specially by Ethiopians.