Tens of thousands of French teachers angry with the government’s COVID-19 rules walked off the job on Thursday and took to the streets to demand better protection for pupils and staff against infection.
“Stop your contempt,” and “We’re fed up with tests” teachers proclaimed on banners in rallies across France, calling for the government to provide them with FFP2 face-masks and to stop changing the rules so often.
Teachers, parents and school directors have struggled to cope with the many twists and turns in COVID rules on schools. New testing requirements announced a day before schools restarted after the Christmas holidays and changed twice since increased the anger.
“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,” said union leader Elisabeth Allain-Moreno.
Many at the rallies called for the resignation of Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer. A government source said he was unlikely to lose his job so close to April’s presidential election.
Prime Minister Jean Castex will, however, meet teachers’ representatives later on Thursday, his office said, in a sign the government was keen to try and quell their anger.
The government has so far stood by its policy to keep classes open and requiring all pupils in contact with an infected person to get tested three times. Some degree of complication is the price to pay to keep schools open, it said.
“I know it’s tough, but a strike does not solve problems. One does not strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM TV earlier this week.