The fifth wave is here. In France, it began in October, associated with the variant Delta, very contagious, and has been confirmed in recent weeks with a “dazzling” epidemic resumption in the words of government spokesperson Gabriel Attal. Unsurprisingly, among the most virulent epidemic foci, we find schools and secondary education establishments.
However, in September, the government announced the lifting of the obligation of the mask in the primary against the opinion of the scientific council which warned on the risk of a “pediatric epidemic”. The objective for the government was to confirm its management of the crisis and to make the lifting of masks the symbol of the return of “happy days”.
The epidemic rebound that we have known for a few weeks will have got the better of this publicity stunt, with the announcement Tuesday by the Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer of 6,000 classes closed in France, particularly in the primary, against 4000 last Friday. With an incidence rate multiplied by 2.5 for 6-10 year olds in the space of a week to settle at 340 cases per 100,000, this figure indicates a very active circulation of the virus. Middle school students are not left out, with an above-average incidence (estimated at 190), standing at 208 for 11-14 year olds. The responsibility of Emmanuel Macron, who wanted to play epidemiologists to feed his political agenda in defiance of alerts is therefore clearly established.
Beyond the last decisions, it is the responsibility of the Minister of National Education which is in question. One year after the strike of secondary school teachers in November 2020, nothing has been done to respond to their demands and give them the means to cope with the various epidemic waves. However, it is this lack of resources that national education workers have denounced since the start of the health crisis. One of the main causes of the virus circulating in schools to date, however, still does not appear to be at the center of the government’s concerns. The Blanquer ministry, on the contrary, continued its policy of cutting jobs and saving money, going so far as to return 400 million euros to its budget in 2021.
To limit the spread of the virus, and “limit the mixing” as required by the health protocol, it would indeed be necessary to reduce the number of students per class, but also to massively recruit qualified personnel to take charge of the students. and their health. Investments are also necessary, for example for the purchase of CO2 sensors, which, contrary to the promises of the government, are rare to have been put in place and remain for the most part the responsibility of the municipalities! Finally, while access, for school administrators, to the vaccination status of pupils has established a form of “health pass” in secondary education, and that the tests have now become payable for those who are not vaccinated, it would be necessary strengthen access to free screening at school and outside.
This is the essence of the demands still made today by the teaching staff, but also by the students. Faced with the recruitment crisis to provide courses and resignations in cascade since the beginning of the crisis, the students of the Sabatier vocational high school in Bobigny set up a blockade on Monday November 22 to demand additional resources and the replacement of teachers on different subjects which are no longer insured.
Besides the lack of teachers, cleaning agents, medical staff and AED are also in dire need. These professionals are in fact less and less present in the establishments because of increasingly degraded working conditions and lower wages. In Seine-Saint-Denis, educational assistants still see their workload increasing, with an average of 1 AED post for 78 students in 2020, which rose to 1 post for 80 students in 2021. Ditto for the CPEs, Sud-Education 93 reveals that for an increase of 1,300 students in the department last year, no additional positions were created. Many establishments therefore find themselves understaffed, sometimes with only one CPE post for nearly 600 students. Sud-Education figures that on the whole of the territory, there is on average only one school doctor for 12,000 pupils.
Despite such a situation, which makes the passage of the fifth wave even more perilous, the time has not yet come for hiring, with the elimination of 7,490 posts in middle and high schools since the start of the five-year term. How to hope to cope with an epidemic when a limited health protocol cannot even be provided by an outdated staff.
While the government has shown us its refusal to truly manage the health crisis, it is up to us to impose from below, from our establishments, but also on all our workplaces, a management of the crisis. Let us impose the establishment of an emergency health plan to cross this fifth wave.