Teachers in the Nasarawa state of Nigeria started an indefinite strike last Thursday over the failure of the government to pay their salaries - after being given a 21 day ultimatum. Teachers in the state have been on half pay for months and even that only comes in fits and starts.

The government is not even providing money for school supplies - the other grounds for the strike. The chair of the Nasarawa chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers said: “Since January 2015, the government has not supplied chalks and instructional materials to primary schools across the state”. 

Meanwhile in Kogi state, teachers have been on strike since December because they have not been paid for five months. Students, while anxious about their education, are appealing to the state government to pay the teachers. As one put it: 'After all, they are asking for the money they had already worked for.They too have families to cater for'. Protesters in the state also pointed out that the political class who run the state all send their children private schools.

Of course education 'reformers', like Bill Gates, Pearson and the World Bank, will say that the problem with education in the global South is that there is a shortage of 'Great Teachers' and that too many teachers are not 'great.' In fact there is simply a shortage of teachers, due to low spending and poverty pay and a shortage of  the infrastructure and resources necessary to make education possible at all.

To make matters even more difficult, Nasarawa is one of the states in Nigeria which has suffered the scourge of violence from Boko Haram - so that teachers and children are not even safe.

Ironically there was an Innovative Educators National Forum in Lagos last weekend which 'was organized by Microsoft to inspire (50 teachers) and elevate their Skills, while empowering them to act as evangelists for Microsoft’s education solutions nationwide.' No doubt this was seen as a way of promoting 'great teachers.' Perhaps instead of spreading its empire to extract more money from the 'bottom of the pyramid', Bill Gates's Microsoft and other corporations could pay their share of taxes so that public services in countries like Nigeria could function.

Training a small group of teachers to use Microsoft products, when teachers in the country are striking for the lack of chalk, reminds this writer of the French queen Marie-Antoinette, just before the revolution, who when told that the people were starving said: 'let them eat cake.'