Monday, January 24, 2022

French teachers on strike to deal with the pandemic

The Associated Press

Published Thursday, January 13, 2022 7:10 am EST

Last updated Thursday, January 13th, 2022 7:10 am EST

PARIS (AP) – Teachers in France went on a nationwide strike on Thursday to express anger at the way schools have handled the virus situation, condemning confusing rules and calling for more protections.

Tired of pressure from rising COVID-19 cases, a large majority of teachers were expected to support calls by 11 unions to protest class disruptions linked to the virus and ever-changing isolation rules.

Unions hold a street protest in Paris city center on Thursday afternoon.

France is at the center of Europe’s current fight against COVID-19, with 360,000 new infections a day this week, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. Teachers are upset and want clarification on rules and more protection, such as additional masks and tests, to help deal with the stress.

“The month of January is tough (for schools),” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blancar admitted on France 2 television. His ministry counted 50,000 new COVID-19 cases among students in “recent days” and a large number of classes were closed because of the virus: 10,553. The figures are expected to worsen in the coming weeks.

Unions estimated that 62% to 75% of teachers were supporting the protest movement, depending on which school they are stationed in. The government said that 27% of the teachers were on strike.

The SNUIPP teachers’ union says there is growing discontent among French teachers. Since January 6, authorities have already implemented two changes to the rules for testing school children, causing whiplash to many.

“Since the start of the January school year, the situation has created an indescribable disturbance and a strong sense of abandonment and anger among school staff,” the union said.

SNUIPP is calling for a return to the previous rule that called off classes for a week if a child tests positive.

Teachers are also demanding higher quality masks, more testing in schools and warning devices in classrooms when ventilation is needed.

The strike comes after French senators approved a bill requiring adults to provide proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and bars, theatres, theatres, museums, playgrounds and inter-regional trains. Unvaccinated children between 12 and 17 may show a negative test.

The measure will come into force once Parliament approves the law by next week.


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