France faces one of its largest education strikes in decades on Thursday, when around 75% of teachers are expected to lay off, forcing the closure of half of the country’s primary schools in protest at the government’s handling. of Covid-19 measures in the education sector.
President Emmanuel Macron this week reaffirmed the government’s view that one of France’s greatest successes during the pandemic had been keeping schools open more than any other country in the world. “I fundamentally believe that the decision we make to keep schools open is the right decision,” he said.
“France is the country that keeps its schools open the most,” said Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.
But a surge in covid infections, driven by a sharp rise in the highly contagious Omicron variant, has created a major disruption to schools since they reopened in early January, with around 10,000 classes closed due to infections among students and staff. .
Parents and children have faced long and often bewildering lines outside pharmacies to get tested in order to qualify for students in a class where there has been a positive case. The screening rules for children have changed several times since the beginning of January. French Prime Minister Jean Castex finally announced this week that a series of home tests could now be used to determine if a student can return to school.
Children over the age of six must wear masks in French schools.
The teacher unions said the government was failing children with a disorganized approach that provided inadequate protection against infection for both staff and students, and did not guarantee replacement coverage for teachers who fell ill while leaving schools. acting as a form of test and trace administrators.
“Students cannot learn adequately because attendance varies so greatly, and it is impossible to implement a hybrid of distance and internal learning,” SUNipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers were not being replaced.
Unions are also demanding that the government provide the most protective FFP2 face masks for staff, and COtwo monitors to check if the classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.
“The current protocol not only fails to protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganized the schools,” the union said, claiming that the classes have effectively been converted into “nurseries.”
In an unusual move, France’s largest parent group, the FCPE, supported the strike and encouraged parents to keep their children at home on Thursday. The group said France needed more saliva tests within schools, rather than lateral flow tests at home; a suitable strategy to guarantee distance learning; and to replace absent teachers. “It is not enough to keep the school doors open,” Rodrigo Arenas, FCPE co-president, told Le Monde.
Valérie Pécresse, one of Macron’s main rivals in the race for this spring’s presidential election from the right-wing Les Républicains party, accused the government of disorder and chaos and said it would have been better to postpone the start of the January term to allow the schools will be prepared and transmission speeds slow.
Blanquer argued this week that the government was doing everything it could to prevent total school closings that could wreak havoc on parents and endanger the learning of thousands of children, especially those from low-income families. “I know there is a lot of fatigue, anxiety … but against a virus there is no strike,” he said in a television interview.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism