Teachers in five districts of Peru have been on indefinite strike since the end of May and have brought their protests to the capital, Lima. They are demanding a living wage, improved conditions of service, security of tenure and an end to privatisation. Teachers in the country earn $445 a month, a far cry from the high salaries of politicians, as one of the protesters points out.

Thousands of teachers demonstrated in the streets of Lima on Wednesday. They say that the government is privatising public education, which will have devastating effects both on teachers, whose conditions of work will worsen, and on parents, who will no longer be able to afford education for their children. 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.

Other public servants have also been on strike, including doctors, who are also protesting the privatisation policies of the President Ollanta Humala. Humala was originally elected on a left wing programme but has steadily moved in the direction of neoliberal, corporate 'reform' and privatisation policies.

 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 that the government '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.

While the latest strike appears to be only in certain regions of Peru and without the support of the leadership of the main teachers' union SUTEP, a national strike was called earler this year against the sacking of 10,000 teachers, also a result of education 'reform' policies.