Teachers in several states in Mexico are on indefinite strike this week at the start of the new school year. This is the latest chapter in their long struggle for democracy, and for education which is rooted in local communities and in the development of critical thinking and creativity instead of standardised tests and shrink-wrapped curricula.

The situation is complicated in Mexico by the fact that the teachers' union, SNTE, has a long history of corruption. Its leader for life Elba Esther Gordillo was arrested by the disputed government of the country. However this was more a case of falling out among thieves than any real wish to bring democracy to the union. Gordillo had previously been one of the main allies and darlings of the governing PRI party, as she had been for two other, similarly neo-liberal administrations. In fact it was a previous PRI administration which named her 'president for life.'

The corruption in the leadership of SNTE has allowed many commentators to frame the present dispute as a justified campaign to rein in the power of the teachers' union. However the real struggle for democracy in the union has come from areas like Oaxaca, where a protracted struggle involving local communities has led to some of the local activists being attacked and even killed - both by the security forces and by goons sent by Gordillo. A trawl through the posts on Mexico on this site will give ample background to this complicated picture.

The present struggle is against a new law - ostensibly to improve education - which sets out the usual diet of performance related pay, standardised testing, centralised curricula geared to the needs of the job market and so on. What marks out those struggling against this is that - not unlike teachers in Chicago - the Mexican teachers, working with education academics, have set out their own plan for improving education in the country.

Those children and teachers who are returning to school this week are faced with many problems - apart from crumbling classrooms and oversized classes. The nationally produced text books contain 117 errors, including putting towns in the wrong states in geography and many spelling mistakes. Incredibly teachers have been given the list of errors and told to correct all the textbooks themselves. The expectation that teachers will spend hours putting right the cavalier attitude of the state to the education of the predominantly low income children who attend public schools, is neatly symbolised in this latest fiasco.

The video clip above from the excellent film Granito de Arena (grain of sand), demonstrates another almost unique feature of teacher activists in Mexico - they see their struggle as part of a global struggle and call for global solidarity. It is to be hoped that teachers all over the world will respond to that call.

Please send messages of support and solidarity to the Mexican section of the Trinational coalition at:  seccionmexicana.coali@gmail.com and Graciela Rangel one of the leaders of the Mexican teachers atrasagas@live.com

To watch the whole of Granito de Arena go here.