Teachers in the Umerkot district of Pakistan have been on strike for over three weeks, demanding to be paid. Incredibly even when they are paid, they only receive $24 a month. For the last six months they have not been paid at all. This situation affects almost 5000 teachers, who are not on permanent contracts and who work in far flung rural areas.

The teachers are as saying that they do not want to disrupt children's education but they do not understand how they are supposed to live on nothing. As well as fighting for their pay they are also demanding to be put on regular contracts.

Stories like this throw into sharp relief the activities of organisations like the UK Department for International Development and the World Bank in Pakistan. As we earlier this year, when teachers in the Punjab area of Pakistan were fighting the imposition of performance related pay and tenure: 

Unfortunately for the teachers of Pakistan, they have been subject to the attentions of Sir Michael Barber - an export from the heart of neo-liberal school reform - who started his work under Tony Blair in England. He was the inventor of the term 'deliverology' and responsible for refining many of the tools used to force so-called accountability on teachers in many parts of the world, such as high stakes testing and performance related pay. He was paid nearly $7000 a day for advising on the 'improvement' of Pakistan's education system under the auspices of the UK Department for International Development and McKinsey consultancy group. Needless to say his prescription was standardisation, data collection, testing, pre-determined lesson plans and the whole raft of 'reforms' being peddled by outfits like Pearson PLC. it also goes without saying that he did not address the real problems of the education system such as poverty, chronically low pay, the use of temporary contracts, very poor conditions in schools, large class sizes, the use of teachers for work other than teaching - not to mention the political instability in the country. As usual, and as in the punishment meted out to teachers in the Punjab, the prime cause of education failure is seen as being the hard-pressed teachers themselves.

The poverty pay and indeed no pay, which is typical for teachers in Pakistan and in many areas of the global South, makes the fight against neo-liberal 'reform' even sharper. It is time for a global front and for global solidarity.