Teachers in the West African state of Liberia started a strike last week, to press their long-standing demand for pay justice. While parliamentary representatives in the country get $5000 a month, teachers earn as little $140 a month - scarcely enough for survival. As well as earning poverty pay, schools are chronically underresourced, with teachers often having to buy materials out of their meagre salaries. Moreover there is a dearth of transport into rural areas.

One headteacher of an elite high school in the capital Monrovia, presumably more than satisfied with his own remuneration, has proposed the World Bank solution to the strike - not paying teachers properly but paying them less and putting them on temporary contracts. J. Sackie Kennedy told : 'Government should start contracting teachers, instead of teachers being on the Civil Service payroll, emphasizing that teachers who are contracted to teach will ensure that they work hard to retain their contracts each academic year'. Kennedy's intervention is another example of how prevalant this pernicious policy is, especially in countries where teachers are already on poverty wages and working in often intolerable conditions. Liberian teachers are demanding that salary which has been owed for months to some teachers be paid immediately, that teachers receive a transport allowance, and a new pay scale for teachers, which begins to be commensurate with their qualifications and the importance of their work. 

Corporations meanwhile make huge profits from the country. The US corporation for example has the largest rubber plantation in the world in Liberia and there are widespread reports of virtual slave labour, with workers being given impossible quotas, meaning that they have to bring their children along to help complete them. According to one lawsuit brought against the company: "The Plantation workers allege, among other things, that they remain trapped by poverty and coercion on a frozen-in-time Plantation operated by Firestone in a manner identical to how the Plantation was operated when it was first opened by Firestone in 1926."

So, as is so often the case in the global South, corporations make huge profits by exploiting cheap labour and natural resources, national elites get a small slice of the cake but the general population, not to mention the teachers and their pupils, live in poverty. The World Bank, while it weeps crocodile tears about the slow implementation of education for all, is the organisation which enables companies like Firestone to pay to the Liberian government, meaning that while growth steams ahead, the country is still one of the poorest in the world.