Permanent teachers in the state of Bihar, India, have come out on strike in support of their temporary colleagues who have been since the beginning of April. The state has not hired any permanent teachers since 2006.

The permanent teachers joined the strike on May 4th and say they will stay out indefinitely, affecting 77,000 schools and nearly 28 million students. Last month we reported one contract teacher, who told reporters he was earning less than half of what permanent colleagues, with similar experience, were earning. Another , 'Now, it has become a matter of 'do or die' for us. We will not teach in the schools.' Not only is the pay low, but of course contract teachers have no security of tenure, nor pension and sickness rights. And the average pupil teacher rate is 63 to one, as against the constitutional number 40 to one.

Despite attempts by the government to scare them back to work by threatening legal proceedings, contract teachers have staged protests including blocking roads by burning tyres and squatting on railways to disrupt train services. In 2013, when contract teachers struck they were attacked by baton-wielding police - a frequent occurrence in India when teachers protest.

An education department official accused the teachers of depriving low income children of education. He added, 'In last few years, studies pointed that well off people sent their children to private schools and most of the poorest of the poor sent their children to government run schools.' Well quite! It is the politicians who do not use the government system, and often themselves own chains of private schools, who are depriving children of an education by refusing to treat teachers with dignity, give them proper contracts and anything other than a poverty wage.

Teachers leaders said: 'The Bihar government, not teachers, is to blame for jeopardizing the studies of over 2.5 crore school students. For, different teachers associations initially began phase-wise agitation, giving enough time to the government for starting negotiations with teachers. But the government ignored the teachers' demands, compelling teachers to go indefinite strike.'

The policy of hiring teachers on temporary contracts is rampant all over the global South, particularly in South Asia. it is one which is enthusiastically promoted by the World Bank, in document after document. Such a policy ties in with their mantra of 'getting more for less', as well as in their view disciplining teachers. As they say in their infamous document, 'the use of contract teachers can strengthen the scope for local monitoring of teacher performance by parents and school councils, which results in higher teacher effort, which results in better student learning outcomes.'

This strike, uniting contract teachers with their permanent colleagues, is a hugely important and massive action, which is almost completely unreported in the western media.