Teachers in the Cameroon are to go on strike, as part of their long fight for permanent contracts and a living wage. The teachers will strike for the whole of next week and again in April. They are also refusing to mark examinations. The teachers' unions have been in negotiations for two years, in an effort to address their grievances, and they have finally lost patience.

90% of teachers at primary level in the Cameroon are on temporary contracts, meaning that they only get a fraction of the already low wages earned by civil service teachers. Moreover Cameroon, like so many other countries in the global South, nominally abolished school fees, in line with the millennium development goal of universal primary education. In effect what this has meant is much less money going into schools, with many more pupils - an impossible situation, which teachers have had to try to deal with through impoverishment and impossible working conditions.

According to one report, the funds forthcoming from the government are so minimal that one school only had four packets of chalk to last for a year. And rural teachers are put in the impossible position of having to live without salaries, miles from their homes. One teacher, who had been posted 800 miles (1300 km) from her home town, said: "In that village, there is no light, no water.  They stay in thatched houses and I had been there for one academic year, no salary, nothing.  Now at my age I am begging from my brothers and sisters". Not surprisingly, while some teachers manage to soldier on, many vote with their feet and leave the profession or refuse to go back to their allocated schools. The only way communities can overcome this problem is to reintroduce unofficial school fees, which makes a mockery of the idea that there is free education.

The World Bank lent Cameroon the paltry sum of $33 million, for a so-called 'education capacity building project'. Teachers' salaries are only mentioned four times in the 70 plus pages of the document, and then only to complain that they take a large share of the education budget and that therefore they must be deployed more efficiently. As usual the project focuses on outcomes, 'efficiency' and data collection. 'The intended outcome' it says, 'is the capacity to continuously update the education sector strategy, based on the most recent qualitative and quantitative data and enhanced by international knowledge sharing.'

The writer of this article finds it very hard to understand why teaching unions, and in particular our global federation Education International, are participating with the World Bank and education corporations like Pearson, in bodies like the Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF), when there is no hope of improving education for children in the global South until teachers are paid properly. As a critical article on EI's own website points out:  One of the reasons why LMTF ignores teachers is that the framing around “learning outcomes” is sometimes presented as being contrasted with a focus on “inputs”. It is suggested that people who talk about “inputs” are dinosaurs – that this is the old way of doing things that got us into this mess, producing poor learning outcomes - and that it is time to move on. By far the most important 'input' in eduation is teachers. Teachers in the Cameroon, like teachers all over the world are fighting for a living wage and proper contracts and training. It is they and not the World Bank, Pearson or the Gates Foundation who are our best and only hope for education for all children. It is time to spread the word about their struggles and get behind them.