Teachers in Haiti are on indefinite strike because many are owed months of back pay. The crisis co-incides with the ending of fees for public schools in the country, but with no money put in to compensate. This is in line with the Universal Primary Education target and is a common story across the global South. School fees are abolished, class sizes increase exponentially, no new teachers are hired, there is no money for basic necessities and teachers and communities have to do their best to work in an impossible situation.

According to the website tout haiti, the Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, lied to the people 'by stating that he had sent one million more children to school without building a single new school, without training a single new teacher, and without increasing the capacity of education colleges to train teachers.' Moreover the teachers accuse the prime minister of corruption.

This is not the first time Haiti's teachers have been forced to resort to strike action in order to get paid at all. Teachers struck in 2012 and 2013, demanding not only to be paid but for decent conditions in schools and vital actions from the government like mass cholera immunisation and hot meals in schools. Clearly nothing much has changed since once again, disgracefully, many teachers have not been paid at all.

One characteristic of the teachers' struggle in Haiti has been the solidarity with students, campaigning against police brutality, which led to to the death of one of their number. Now once again students are speaking up for their teachers and demanding that the government pay them.

Interestingly, after the devastating earthquake in 2010, which led to 5000 shoddily built schools collapsing and thousands dying, Haiti's school system was put in the hands of Paul Vallas. Vallas is the US education 'reformer' who organised the handing over of New Orleans public schools to charters, after the hurricane which all but destroyed that city. Just as in New Orleans, he brought in anti-union and pro-privatisation policies to Haiti as well as curricula shrink-wrapped from the US. At the same time no money was put into the infrastructure of education so children are still learning in tents or in containers often in stifling heat.

US colleagues will be interested to hear that their education secretary, Arne Duncan, visited Haiti recently and opined: 

One of the many needs here are clear data systems, having transparency, knowing basic things, like how many children we have, how many schools there are, how many teachers we have.  I think it’s so important that everybody be transparent and honest on the good, the bad and the ugly.

This was after visiting schools which like the majority in that country had no toilets and where pupils sleep on the streets. He commented, “far from ideal conditions”, according to the Washington Post. The journalist ended with the dry comment 'Nothing a good data system can't help.'