Teachers in India are continuing their long and determined struggle against the use of temporary contracts. In Ropar, in the Indian part of Punjab, teachers were attacked by baton charging policemen as they demonstrated peacefully for permanent contracts. Many of the teachers, who all work for the government programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or Education For All, have been on temporary contracts for many years, despite promises to make them permanent. Teachers on such contracts not only have no job security, they also receive much less pay, a quarter to a third of their permanent colleagues, they also have no pensions or other insurance. Many of them are highly qualified with bachelor and even masters degrees. Teachers are some of the lowest paid public servants in India - even regular teachers earn as little as $100 a month in many states.

Nevertheless as they marched on Sunday they were attacked by state forces and eight were arrested. As a result teachers, supported by other trade unionists, demonstrated outside government headquarters in Bathinda, burning an effigy of the government and demanding the release of the jailed teachers. One of the leaders of the protest : 'It’s shameful that the teachers who light the world, are being beaten by the police and the state government.'

On February 26th there will be nationwide protests of teachers and other trade unionists against amendments to the country's labour laws which are described by unions as 'pro-corporate', and will make it even easier for employers to use temporary contracts.

Meanwhile in another part of Punjab, in the town of Ludhiana, computer teachers in public schools protested because they have yet to be paid after three months work. The teachers have been hampered in their protest by the arrest of five of their leaders for disrupting traffic when they were demonstrating in September. One teacher said: “It is quite demoralising that teachers are without salary even after several months. We do our work with full devotion. Apart from teaching, we work for several other official tasks regarding computer in schools. The government should pay the salaries on time.'

This treatment of teachers in the global South is all too common and makes nonsense of government and World Bank claims to give education and teachers priority. It must be obvious, even to highly paid World Bank economists, that until teachers are paid a living wage and in a timely manner, there is no chance of improving public education. But then that is not their agenda. What education 'reform' advocates like the World Bank and the leaders of the SSA programme in India want is to run down public education and promote privatisation, while they scapegoat public school teachers for having low expectations and failing to lift children out of poverty.