Over 300,000 teachers went on strike in Colombia on Wednesday and held protests in towns all over the country, including the capital, Bogota. The teachers are calling for more investment in public education, an end to the privatisation of education and proper pay for teachers who are on starvation wages, according to a spokesperson for the teachers' union FECODE. Morevoer teachers say that education policy should not be formulated without the involvement of teachers.

As well as the gross under-investment in education, teachers are demanding that they should be allowed to teach without fearing for their lives. In the past 20 years 999 teachers have been killed, including 60 in the last four years. Paramilitary death squads are able to operate with impunity in the country because they are in close collaboration with people high up in the political establishment. They terrorise populations and assassinate anyone perceived to be left wing. For this reason trade unionists, and in particular teacher trade unionists are in very real danger. In addition to this, many trade unionists are in prison for exercising their rights.

The government of Juan Manuel Santos, which came to power in 2010, is pursuing the same neo-liberal policies as his predecessor and ally Uribe. Such policies are causing widespread social unrest, particularly amongst farmers who are protesting free trade deals with the US andthe European Union which will hit their livelihoods. Privatisation is another central plank of the government's attack on the poor. One of the teachers on Wednesday's demonstration, who teaches in an impoverished district of Bogota said: "The effect of privatization in Colombia is that the poor will have a stratified education. That’s to say, through privatization, quality education in Colombia will only be enjoyed by those from richer backgrounds. What we are looking for is investment from the government to allow us to take education to a more equal level with the rich."

Such policies are being pursued all over the world and teachers are contesting them. In the case of Colombia, they are doing this in one of the most dangerous places in the world which is why they need all our solidarity.