French teachers on Thursday went on strike over the government’s failure to adopt a coherent policy for schools to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and protect pupils and staff against infection.
Teachers, parents and school administrators said they had struggled to deal with the pandemic and the government still engaged in twist and turns on COVID-19 rules at school.
They said new testing requirements were announced on the eve of the return from Christmas holidays and changed twice since.
Elisabeth Allain-Moreno, national secretary of the SE-UNSA teachers union said “we had reached such a level of exasperation, tiredness, and anger that we didn’t have any other option but to organise a strike to send a strong message to the government.”
Schools in Paris and beyond offered a mixed picture on Thursday morning, with some entirely closed because of the strike, some partly open and others operating normally. Some were open only for children of health workers.
Mirlene Pouvin, whose child is in a high school where some teachers were on strike and others present, said she sympathised with those who walked off the job.
“I understand them, because the (COVID) protocol is impossible to apply – whether it’s in schools or in hospitals. I hold no grudge against them,” she said.
Unions have said they expect many schools to be closed for the day and large numbers of teachers including 75 per cent in primary schools and 62 per cent in high schools to join the one-day strike.
Unions representing school directors, inspectors and other staff have also joined the strike.
The Education Ministry gave much lower figures, saying there was an average of 38.5 per cent of teachers on strike in primary schools, and just fewer than 24 per cent in high schools. (Reuters/NAN)