by Katabella Roberts, Activist Post:
Teachers across France staged a mass walkout this week in protest over the government’s ever-changing COVID-19 rules for those working in the education sector which they say fail to protect both staff and students.
The French Ministry of Education estimated that around 31 percent of all school teachers across the country took part in the strike on Thursday, 38 percent of whom worked in primary schools and nearly 24 percent in secondary schools.
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A statement from the Mayor of Paris’ office said that in the capital city, roughly 58 percent of the teaching staff took part in the strike, and around 200 schools were forced to close, although trade and teachers unions put those figures much higher, at 75 percent.
The protests came as teachers across France are growing increasingly frustrated with the government’s ever-changing policies regarding the pandemic which has seen testing rules for children changed several times since the start of this year alone, oftentimes at the very last minute.
On top of that, educators say the government’s approach to the pandemic is failing to protect children or ensure replacement cover for teachers who are falling ill with the coronavirus. Unions are also calling on the government to provide more protective FFP2 face masks for staff as well as carbon dioxide monitors in classrooms so that they can ensure that they are sufficiently ventilated, as per The Guardian.
A protestor holds a placard reading “Exhausted directress” during a demonstration called by teachers’ unions to denounce new government measures against COVID-19, in Marseille, southern France, on Jan. 13, 2022. (Clement Mahoudeau/AFP via Getty Images)
Despite a surge in virus cases in schools across France, which have reached record highs of close to 370,000 new daily cases, the government has so far kept classes open and required all pupils in contact with an infected person to get tested three times.
“We had reached such a level of exasperation, tiredness, and anger that we didn’t have any other option but to organize a strike to send a strong message to the government,” union leader Elisabeth Allain-Moreno said.
On Monday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that the rules were changing yet again, telling TV station France 2 that students would now be required to take three self-administered COVID-19 at home, which will be free, as opposed to having PCR or antigen tests and then two self-administered tests on day two and day four.
“This will have an effect on the queues [outside pharmacies],” Castex said.
Teachers and school personnel march during a demonstration called by teachers’ unions to denounce new government measures against COVID-19, in Marseille, southern France, on Jan. 13, 2022. (Clement Mahoudeau/AFP via Getty Images)
But on Thursday, Snuipp-F.S.U., a leading union of elementary school personnel, criticized the government for allegedly updating the rules via the media as opposed to informing teachers beforehand.
“The prime minister’s televised speech ignoring the demands of personnel has once again demonstrated government contempt amplifying their anger and their mobilization,” SUNipp-FSU said.