A co-operative school in Iran is organising a national conference to bring together practitioners from across the country.
Rah-e-Roshd, an educational co-op complex in Tehran, has 115 members, 80% of whom are women. It employs 620 members of staff, who teach 2,000 students aged 3–18 in five schools across the city. The average class size is 25 students.
“We are trying to build a momentum for co-operative schools in Iran,” said Anahita Eslahpazir, one of the members of the co-op, who is helping to organise the event.
The project originated in 1985 when a group of parents decided to set up a kindergarten and used their salaries to get it started.
Profits are re-invested in the school, benefiting parents, children and employees. Pupils can study subjects such as economics or environmental studies, gain computer or language skills – or learn how to swim.
The school is also working to support other co-ops and has recently helped women who work at the canteen to establish their own co-op.
“We provided them support throughout the paperwork process and they have now started working as a co-operative,” said Ms Eslahpazir. “Because of the nature of teamwork in co-ops, it matches the way in which women work, so they find the model much, much more suitable for doing a business.”
The conference aims to explore legislative and policy challenges and opportunities for co-operative schools. Panellists will also look at promoting co-operatives as a model of participatory economics.
Organisers expect between 400 and 500 delegates to turn up at the event, the first of its kind in Iran.
Co-operatives have a long history in the country, with the first rural state-owned co-op being founded in 1935. By 1951 there were 100 co-operatives, but there was no effective activity. Now co-operatives are present across many different sectors, particularly manufacturing (61%), services (36%) and distribution (3%) as well as agriculture, construction, handicrafts, education, food and medicine.