Teachers in the Indonesian capital Jakarta demonstrated in their hundreds outside the state palace demanding to be given permanent status last week. Contract teachers in Indonesia typically earn about $25 a month and can get as little as a third of that. 300 police were drafted in to control the peaceful demonstration according to reports.

The employment of teachers on temporary contracts is rife in Indonesia as it is all over the global South. In one area, Surakarta, of the approzimately 7800 members of the teachers union, around 6000 are on temporary contracts and some are nearing retirement. As well as being on poverty wages, being a contract teacher means you have no rights, particularly to a pension. Teachers can also be summarily transferred from one end of the country to the other.

At the end of last year the education and culture minister promised to set a minimum wage for contract teachers. However this is not sufficient. The teachers should be put on permanent contracts. The use of temporary contracts is advocated by the World Bank in all its policy documents, which see the lack of tenure as a way both of disciplining teachers and saving money. 

As well as advocating the use of temporary contracts, the World Bank has also helped in the drafting of a new education law which is both complex and punitive: teachers can at best be rewarded for meeting targets and at worst docked pay or be sacked for failing to reach them. This is grossly insulting to teachers doing their best on poverty pay. The situation is even more appalling when you realise that Indonesia is a member of the G20 group of rich countries and yet 60% of low income children do not attend school at all.