Teachers in Sri Lanka are still struggling for education to be properly funded. In the latest dispute with the government, the Ceylon Teachers Services Union (CTSU) is demanding that 70,000 teachers be given the promotion they are owed, because they have achieved new qualifications. The teachers have been waiting since 1997 for anomalies in their pay to be sorted out. Leaders of the CTSU say that money which was set aside in the budget to increase teachers' pay was not used for that purpose and are demanding to know what happened to it.

Not only are teachers denied a living wage and the promoted salaries to which they are entitled, the government does not provide the basic funding to keep schools functioning. For instance there is no money for electiricity or phone bills, meaning that principals have to collect the money themselves in order to alllow school to take place at all.

At the end of 2012, teachers held mass protests demanding the government increase its funding for education, from 1.9% of GDP - one of the lowest in the world, to 6%. And last year teachers took part in protests against measures by the government to raise electricity prices at the behest of the International Monetary Fund. Teachers involved in these struggles faced intimidation from the police, who, amongst other things, demanded lists of trade union activists. On another occasion, thugs reputedly hired by the government, attacked teachers who were demonstrating, causing some to be hospitalised.

Teachers and principals in Sri Lanka also suffer from the scouge of temporary contracts, a policy advocated by the World Bank, which said in a recent document, 'Being on a short-term, renewable contract can clearly generate stronger incentives for an individual teacher to meet the performance goals of the contracting unit'.

Teachers and communities in Sri Lanka will derive little comfort from the latest education development plan for the country from the World Bank, which among other things states: "the  schools will  be  able  to  raise  resources  from  their stakeholder communities, such as parents, past pupils associations, and local philanthropists, to supplement  the  funds  received  from  the  government  to  develop  the  schools". This proposal comes under the benign sounding heading of 'sterngthening governance and delivery of education services' and devolving power to local communities. In the context of principals having to raise money locally to pay electricity bills and thousands of teachers being owed salaries, this sounds like a pretty thin cover for allowing the government to evade its responsibility for funding schools properly. Needless to say the plan also, "has  a  strong  focus  on  the  monitoring  and evaluation  of  results  and  outcomes.  The  monitoring  and  evaluation  activities  will  focus  on program  inputs,  processes,  outputs,  results  and  outcomes." In other words, schools and teachers in Sri Lanka will have to put up with the same bureaucratic and damaging data collection processes as schools in countries like the US and the UK, but without even the wherewithal to pay their teachers a living wage or keep the lights on.

It will also be of little comfort to the teachers that Teach For All appears to have its tentacles in the country too. The Teach for Sri Lanka facebook page has the rather unfortunately chosen inspirational quote at the beginning: "Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, ecnouraging them to create bridges of their own."  

Teachers in Sri Lanka are not planning to collapse, joyfully or otherwise, but rather planning a series of actions to get pay justice. They deserve global solidarity.