The French Green party expressed support for the education workers who went on strike on January 13th, 2022. That day, thousands of teachers among others were in the streets, protesting the Covid-19 situation in schools, where the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly. The Ministry of Education estimates that 31 percent of teachers participated in the strike.
In France, daily new cases of Covid-19 have surpassed three hundred thousand. Eva Sas, the spokesperson for the Greens’ education commission, characterized the situation in schools as worrisome: “Classes are being closed by high case numbers and the lightening of restrictions is allowing a greater presence of vaccinated students who have been exposed to Covid-19. While the burden of testing has been left to parents, nothing has been put in place in classrooms to limit contagion.” In her view, education workers are on strike not just to make “material and organizational demands,” but also to bring attention to their students’ mental health.
These protests were ignited by a change in the Covid-19 protocols in place in schools — the third in ten days. This inconsistency has frustrated many education workers. The Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer pleaded with the strikers “not to go on strike against a virus.” He explained that the situation is difficult, “but it’s difficult in every country.” Green presidential candidate Yannick Jadot denounced Blanquer’s “attitude of contempt and dilettantism,” and called for his resignation. He also participated in a protest in Grenoble.
The Greens are not looking for the closure of schools, which are “necessary for the mental health of young people,” in Sas’ view. Rather, they are calling on the government to provide ventilation systems for every classroom, as well as other protective equipment for teachers. Presidential candidates Jean-Luc Melenchon and Anne Hidalgo also showed their support for the strikers. They were both present at protests in Paris, but Mayor Hidalgo of Paris was heckled by some protesters, who accused her of “political posturing.” Blanquer too, responded to criticism by the three presidential candidates by warning that “in a crisis, you see who takes responsibility, and who takes advantage.”