(NEW YORK) – A nationwide strike took place in schools across France on Thursday as teachers and other school staff demonstrated against the government’s handling of COVID-19 protocols in schools.
Teachers, other school staff and parents across the country have been complaining for months, saying health protocols in schools are confusing and continually changing. The government has twice changed the rules for schools in the past week.
They argued that they are facing the crisis with unenforceable measures, an increasing workload, teachers not being replaced when sick, no additional resources or staff to mitigate the problems and a lack of transparency on the part of the education Minister.
Teachers’ unions had called for a walkout to decry the ‘indescribable mess’ in schools as COVID-19 cases surged and pharmacies reported shortages of self-testing kits since the start of the year .
The primary teachers’ union, SNUipp-FSU, announced an estimated turnout of 75% in its ranks, and the secondary school union, SNES-FSU, declared 62% mobilization. However, the Ministry of National Education claimed that 38.5% of primary school teachers and 23.7% of secondary school teachers participated.
“The teachers express their anger against this minister who does not hear them, who does not listen to what is happening on the ground, who does not listen to the distress present in the schools and all the possible dysfunctions, and above all a minister who speaks to the press first before speaking to the students,” a representative from SNUipp-FSU told ABC News. “And so the teachers are very angry.”
The main parents’ association, the FCPE, also joined the movement in support of teachers, and called earlier this week for a “white day” in schools, urging parents to keep their children at home. home on Thursday.
CIPF Co-Chair Nageate Belahcen said while the COVID-19 protocols look “pretty” on paper, there is “no pedagogical continuity.”
“Nothing is set up because the means are not there and there are no substitute teachers,” Belahcen told ABC News, adding that she was also worried about the exams that are coming up. would take place this year. “All of this means that parents are still very, very worried about the future of their children, for the well-being of their children, and above all, we cannot bear this situation any longer.”
For weeks, education professionals have been asking the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, for more staff and reinforced measures – including FFP2 masks for teachers, CO2 sensors and air purifiers for classrooms – to combat rising cases of COVID-19.
Blanquer has been repeatedly criticized since the start of the pandemic due to concerns over his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
“When will you submit your resignation, Mr. Minister?” Asked Sylvie Tolmont, Sarthoise deputy to the National Assembly, on Tuesday during a government questioning session. This is not the first time his resignation has been requested since he took office in 2017.
In order to appease the demonstrators, Prime Minister Jean Castex met the unions on Thursday evening, as well as the ministers of health and education.
After a discussion that lasted three hours, Blanquer announced that he had acceded to certain demands from the unions, including the distribution of 5 million FFP2 masks to schools, the recruitment of 3,300 contractual substitute teachers and additional non-teaching and administrative staff.
There was a similar dispute over school health and safety in the United States. After five days of canceled classes, the Chicago Teachers Union voted, with 56% in favor, to approve a COVID-19 agreement with Chicago Public Schools that included expanded testing, masks and a plan to close schools during school breaks. epidemics.
Thursday’s strike was a “historic mobilization” for France, according to the SNUipp-FSU, given the number of strikers, the unity between the teachers’ unions and the fact that the FCPE also participated.
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