France’s teachers condemn ‘catastrophic’ handling of COVID in schools

France’s training unions staged a nationwide strike on Thursday, with lecturers describing a “catastrophic” state of affairs in colleges as tens of hundreds of scholars are out sick with COVID-19.

“We have already changed protocol three times since the start of the school year, so we give different parents information every week, every day,” stated Léna Peregrin, a 25-year outdated educating assistant who has been chargeable for managing the COVID-19 protocol in her faculty in Lyon.

“We have 52 COVID cases today, we had 30 at the start of the week. It is increasing every day and nothing is changing,” she added.

“We are asking (the government) for the means to make us safe such as masks. The mask that I’m wearing today is the mask that I have been buying for a year because the ministry does not supply us with surgical masks or FFP2 masks.”

One of the most important French training unions, the SNUIPP-FSU, stated round 75% of college personnel went on strike, ensuing within the closures of round half of faculties. The union referred to as it a “historic mobilisation”, including that it was not a strike in opposition to the virus however quite a mirrored image of rising anger in colleges.

France’s training ministry put the variety of strikers at a complete of 27% of college personnel nationally, with round 40% of personnel in major colleges on strike.

“The strike is historic. There have never been so many strikers in schools for a very long time,” stated Benjamin Grandener, a faculty director and co-secretary of the Rhône chapter of the most important lecturers’ union.

“It’s an absolute mess in the schools and even if on paper they’re open, in truth, we’re unable to really teach the students and classes that are present.”

Strikers in Lyon on Thursday took up the area of three streets, with many lecturers stating that they had been current in anger over the state of affairs and that they had been exhausted.

The employees marched via the streets chanting that they needed masks in colleges, as onlookers consuming in eating places and on the road stood as much as clap for them. Many lecturers carried indicators to say they had been in misery.

“It really weighs on you. I know when I get home I’m really not well,” stated Fidji, a 25-year-old training assistant who began working in a highschool simply final 12 months.

“We are at the end of the line, we are on edge, it creates tension. Yesterday someone intentionally set a fire in the high school. So, in addition to working to put out the pandemic fire, there was a real fire.”

Two highschool lecturers within the area of Isère stated they had been protesting over the “catastrophic” state of affairs in colleges.

“The students are dropping like flies in the classes, we only have two school monitors, two out of five working. The school is completely overwhelmed,” one in every of them stated.

A model new highschool examination is deliberate for March and the lecturers say they lack details about the standards, including to their stress and to these of the scholars.

“The high school students are already very stressed by the baccalaureate and with the reform, they have to take speciality exams in March. The tests are coming very quickly and with all the classes they missed or the students not having access to everything that is virtual, they’re not getting quality classes,” stated Mégane Montavert, a 30-year-old highschool instructor in Lyon.

Parents and lecturers realized final week that college students in lessons the place somebody has a case of COVID-19 must be examined 3 times per week as a way to hold the category open.

There are presently greater than 300,000 new COVID-19 infections a day in France, the very best variety of every day instances for the reason that starting of the pandemic.

It’s because of the extremely transmissible Omicron variant and has resulted in hundreds of college lessons being quickly closed because of COVID.

Vaccination solely just lately opened to younger kids, with lower than 1% of these underneath the age of 11 totally vaccinated.

Education unions demand that faculty personnel and college students be outfitted with surgical masks and respirators in addition to self-tests. They are additionally urging the federal government to delay the Baccalaureat to June because of the well being disaster.

The authorities stated on Tuesday that greater than 10,000 faculty lessons had been closed, representing round 2% of major faculty lessons, however that their objective was to maintain colleges open.

Ahead of the training strike, Prime Minister Jean Castex stated the foundations can be simplified, stating that there can be free self-tests out there in pharmacies and that three self-tests had been enough for contacts of people that take a look at optimistic for COVID-19 in colleges.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer stated on cable tv: “it’s not as if we were in a normal period, we’re in a severe crisis”. He stated that individuals should not strike in opposition to a virus.

The COVID-19 epidemic comes as France prepares for an April presidential election with a number of candidates on each the left and proper supporting lecturers who’re placing in opposition to the federal government.

Managing COVID-19 infections in colleges has been a problem all through the pandemic, with the World Health Organization’s European regional director stating this week that colleges have to be the final to shut.

“Keeping schools open has important benefits for children’s mental, social and educational well-being. Schools should be the last places to close and the first to reopen,” Hans Kluge stated.


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