Telesur is reporting that over 10,000 teachers have been sacked in Peru - some with over 30 years service. The teachers were hired on temporary contracts, mostly to work in low-income areas, pending their completion of a teacher training qualification - they had all come straight from university. But with their salaries on average $350 a month, they were usually not in a position to fund the new qualification.

One teacher told Telesur: 'After years of serving the state, they are firing us. This creates many difficulties for us. First a sudden termination, then they don't pay us for February, and most of the teachers, most of the 15,500 teachers are in debt.'

Teachers' leaders - who are preparing mass protests, say that this is all part of  the drive to privatise education in the country. Private schools do not have to use qualified teachers, and their numbers are rocketing, with over half the schools in the capital, Lima, in private hands. Moreover banks and corporations are investing heavily in the private sector, 

In the latest World Bank report on education, which identifies teachers as 'the main constraint' on good education in Latin America, the author cites Peru as using 'best practice' in 'reforming' education. She says, 'President García ably used an active communication campaign and compelling data on the low performance of the education system and the low quality of teachers to build public support for major reforms.' In other words, the Peruvian government is using the classic neo-liberal strategy of attacking teachers, blaming them for the shortfalls in public education, which are in fact due to lack of funding and thus encouraging and building the private sector. The human cost of this strategy, for thousands of long-serving teachers, not to mention their students, is obvious from this latest news.

As we reported last week, the teaching union, SUTEP, which has consistently opposed the eudacation 'reform' policies of the government, has called a general strike for May against the privatisaiton of education.