Teachers in Colombia started an indefinite strike for proper education funding on Wednesday. Thousands marched through the capital, Bogota, demanding decent pay and working conditions. 

The government invoked the right to education as a way of attacking the strike, which teachers interviewed said was ironic considering they were the ones who were out on the streets demanding that public education be funded properly. One teacher pointed out that the government only allocated $1 a day per child for school food - not enough for a decent meal in the country. 

Teachers in Colombia earn $500 - $800 a month and are some of the lowest paid in Latin America. However the teachers are not only campaigning for fair pay, they also want schools to be funded properly with decent infrastructure and teaching materials. 

Over 300,000 are taking action, which is particularly brave in a country where security forces still kill union activists and protesters on a regular basis. 

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 and the European Union which will hit their livelihoods. Privatisation is another central plank of the government's attack on the poor. When teachers struck last year over the same issues, one, who lives 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."