Second school year under Covid-19

August 30, 2021, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French

A week before the fateful date, the conditions for back to school were still unclear. Schools are now back in session. The Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has sent out multiple contradictory announcements. Meanwhile, no additional resources have been allocated to education, and job cuts continue in all public services.

A health protocol without resources

The Minister of Education is pleased that schools have reopened. Everyone is happy again! Yet it is this government, like its predecessors, that chose to close elementary school classes this year, and to cut 1,800 positions in secondary schools. This is the education sector’s real social plan. It is a catastrophe for the children of the working classes, while children of the privileged continue to receive private lessons.

In the health sector, the proposed work site conditions are not supported with any resources. The same government that said it would subsidize employers with “whatever it takes” suddenly does not have the funds to provide CO2 sensors or air purifiers. The government can only provide the cheap self-administered rapid tests, left over from last year, without trained personnel to administer them.

New personnel were not hired to allow for smaller class sizes, in split groups. In-person instruction is provided without plexiglass barriers. Classrooms will close one after another in the primary grades with each reported case. Parents will pay the price: employers are not providing childcare leave for student absences, and employees will have to use their vacation time!

The Blanquer method: distraction, manipulation and self-satisfaction

At a time when scientific evidence is accumulating on the vulnerability of children to the Delta variant, the start of the school year is once again a catastrophe and Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer is focusing on distractions. Some of them are served to him on a platter from his so-called opponents on the extreme right. For example, he is considering requiring the back-to-school aid to families be used solely on the purchase of school supplies. As if they were buying yachts! It doesn’t cost the government anything to spread this kind of anti-worker garbage, while workers are receiving insufficient social aid compared to the hundreds of billions granted to employers.

There has also been an attempt to continue fueling the vaccine debate with the provocative measure of “evicting” unvaccinated students from a classroom with a positive covid case. Minister of Education Blanquer is completely off course, because teachers are almost all vaccinated and adolescents over 12 years old are well on their way to being vaccinated, while scientists do not yet recommend vaccination of children under 12 years of age. School-based vaccination, if implemented, would mainly be hampered because of a nurse and doctor shortage in the schools. Such a vaccination campaign wouldn’t have any impact for a few months, while the start of the school year for 12 million students is taking place this week.

Before, during and after the pandemic, fighting for education for all

The government has continued the methodical destruction of public schools during the pandemic. The reform of high schools, the new baccalaureate exam (French exam at the end of high school) and new ParcourSup (new admission process select for access to higher education) have reinforced social selection and degraded the conditions of education for the less privileged. The catastrophic consequences of this pandemic are gradually affecting each working-class family, especially the poorest.

The first lockdown in March 2020 interrupted the teachers’ and high school students’ movement against the attack on pensions and on secondary education. Last year, many teachers went on strike for class size reduction in the face of the second wave of the coronavirus. In this fight for public services and our rights as workers, we can only count on our own struggles!