Teachers in the East Darfur region of Sudan are in the fourth week of a strike in pursuit of the payment of money owed to them by the government. Teachers in other parts of Darfur have also been on protracted strikes over the same issue. Those in South Darfur suspended their strike after the government agreed a timetable to pay the arrears, but they are threatening to come out on strike again if the money is not paid in a timely fashion.

The money is owed to the teachers since 2011 and low and unpaid pay is not the only problem faced in the area. Conditions in schools are very bad, with a lack of furniture, books and deteriorating buildings. The government has tried heavy-handed tactics, like threatening strikers with the sack, as well as sacking some principals and arresting and interrogating teachers' leaders. They have also used exhortation - telling teachers that they are damaging children's education. This is deeply ironic since teachers in the region are the only ones doing their best in appalling conditions and for poverty pay to educate children. Not only that but for much of the recent period, education has had to take place against a background of civil war in the area.

As we reported last month, Sudan is a 'Highly Indebted Poor Country' according to World Bank criteria, and this despite the fact that until the secession of South Sudan it had access to considerable oil wealth. The unequal sharing out of the wealth has been one of the main causes of the conflicts in the country which have cost hundreds of thousands of  lives. Now oil giants like Total and Exxon are negotiating deals to enable them to extract oil and profits from South Sudan. Meanwhile all over Sudan and South Sudan, including in Darfur, teachers and other education employees have been doing their best in impossible circumstances.