Tens of thousands of French teachers angry at the government’s COVID-19 rules have pulled out of their jobs and took to the streets to demand better protection for pupils and staff from infection.
Teachers, parents, and school administrators have struggled to deal with the pandemic and the many twists and turns of COVID rules at school. The new testing requirements, announced on the eve of the return from the Christmas holidays, and changed twice since then, led to a consolidation of outrage.
“We have reached such a level of indignation, fatigue and anger that we had no other choice but to organize a strike to send a strong message to the government,” said Elizabeth Allen Moreno, National Secretary of the Republic of South Sudan. UNSA Teachers’ Union.
Outrage was being felt at protest rallies across France, in which many called for the resignation of Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.
“the [health] The protocol mutates faster than the virus,” one poster read at a rally in the southern city of Nice.
A government source said Blanquerre was unlikely to lose his job three months before the presidential election. Prime Minister Jan Castex’s office said the prime minister would meet with teacher representatives later on Thursday.
The Paris protest featured several left-wing candidates in April’s presidential election, including socialist Anne Hidalgo, whose platform includes doubling teachers’ salaries, and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Al Jazeera’s Natasha Butler said, in a report from Paris, that the protesters believed that the rules that had been put in place were too complex and uncontrollable.
“They say the restrictions put them at greater risk of contracting the virus in the classroom than in previous months… at a time when the virus is spreading widely in France,” Butler said.
“We have almost record new infection rates of COVID-19 in France. They want simpler, clearer rules. They want more time to be able to implement any new measures; they say right now, it’s not happening. They also want things like more masks and more measures.” preventive”.
Some schools closed on Thursday due to the strike, others opened their doors to children of health workers only, while others are working normally.
The unions said large numbers of teachers – including about 75 percent in primary schools and 62 percent in secondary schools – joined the one-day strike. The MOE figures were much lower, 38.5% in primary schools, and just under 24% in secondary schools.
A joint statement by 11 unions blamed the government for what it described as a “chaotic situation” due to “continuous changes in rules, unworkable protocols, and a lack of appropriate tools to ensure [schools] can function properly.
The government has adhered to its policy of keeping classrooms open and requiring all students in contact with an infected person to take the test three times. A certain degree of complexity, she added, is the price that must be paid to keep schools open.
“I know it’s tough, but a hit doesn’t solve the problems. Nobody is attacking the virus,” Blanquer told BFM TV.
Infections in schools soared as France set records with nearly 370,000 new cases per day, prompting families to get their children tested.
“My children and I, we are tired of having exams every two days,” said Corinne Courvoisier, the mother of seven-year-old twins who joined the protest march in Nice.
“We started testing Nelson and Elsa on Friday because there was a suspected positive COVID-19 test in Nelson’s class, so on Friday, then Sunday, then Tuesday, then yesterday a message from the principal saying there was another suspected case in Elsa’s class.. We don’t see the end of it.”