maliblog.jpg  Part of a school class in Mali Teachers in Mali have been on strike for 7 months calling for an increase in their salaries and the salaries of unqualified teachers and a housing allowance of $142. Despite being rich in mineral deposits such as gold and being West Africa's biggest producer of cotton, Mali is one of the World Bank's so-called Highly Indebted Poor Countries and its education system has received much attention from the World Bank over the past several years. Amongst other things the bank has put pressure on the government to cut public spending which has meant it has been difficult to hire teachers and has encouraged the hiring of so called 'contract teachers' basically untrained youth living near a school who can be paid as little as 50% of the already meagre salaries earned by teachers accredited by the government. The Bank also encouraged the 'double shift' sytem meaning that a school has two school populations a day and teachers' work expands accordingly. The leader of the joint teaching union COSES said that all teachers were asking for were the means to live in decent conditions. Meanwhile the government says that it cannot afford to pay for any improvements in teachers' salaries. Members of the unions say that they are determined to continue with their action until their demands are met.