France…Demonstration demanding improvement in the condition of public schools

Paris – On Thursday, thousands of teachers held mass demonstrations in several French cities to send a “warning to the government” about the poor conditions of the education sector in the country, demand improvements in working conditions and pay, and defend public schools. Did. ,

Overall, more than 40% of teachers in primary schools and 47% in secondary schools went on strike, according to data from Snes-FSU, the main union of secondary education, while the Ministry of Education reported that the percentage did not exceed 21%.

In Paris, a protest march began from Luxembourg towards the ministry's headquarters, located in the 6th arrondissement, at the invitation of the main teaching unions and 65% of the capital's teachers took part in the strike, leading to the closure of 130 out of 638 schools. ,

Elsewhere, at least 2,500 people demonstrated in Lyon, 1,600 in Marseille and 2,300 in Rennes and Nantes, according to police figures, and other demonstrations are expected to be seen in several cities in the coming weeks.

General view of a teachers' demonstration in the French capital Paris on Thursday, February 1, 2024
French teacher: We are trying to save a government school that is under attack, especially from the ministry (Al Jazeera)

persistent problems

According to Matteo Moro, secretary of the CGT education union, the protests are aimed at further promoting reforms to deal with inequality among students and growing bourgeois manifestations within society, which in turn affects the lives of students.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Moro said, “At a time when teachers are asking the government to create more employment opportunities and resources, the government of President Emmanuel Macron responded by requiring the implementation of uniforms is, and we look at this matter as a kind of ridiculous military service. They're going in a completely far-fetched direction.” “About the deeper problems that plague the region.”

Another problem for teachers was added when former Education Minister (currently Prime Minister) Gabriel Atal announced the cancellation of 650 teaching jobs in public schools at the beginning of the 2024 academic year, sparking a wave of criticism and questions, To which concrete answers were not received. As yet.

This coincides with a continuing shortage of workers in the education sector, which had 12 million students in middle and secondary schools last September, with the number of teachers in the public and private sectors under contract not exceeding 854,000, both from Are associated. Ministry of National Education.

According to the Directorate of Research, Studies and Statistics (DARS), it is expected that 328,000 teachers will retire by 2030, or more than a third of the current total.

Absenteeism of teachers and difficulty in replacing them in the classroom is one of the main obstacles. “The director of an educational institution does not have the right to compensate for absences, which is considered a natural right for any employee,” said Elodie, a teacher who began her teaching career at a primary school in the capital five years ago.

He further said, “The government should understand that we are not robots, but people living our lives and have the right to get respectable salary and leave without any punishment or criticism.”

A demonstration in Paris demanding better working conditions and protecting public schools
Protests escalated after announcement of cancellation of 650 teaching jobs in government schools at the start of the current academic year (Al Jazeera)

in danger

Romain Delaporte has been working in the teaching profession for 20 years in a school on the outskirts of Paris. “We are trying to save a public school that is being attacked from all sides, especially from the ministry and the government itself,” he told Al Jazeera Net while attending the protest.

He pointed out that “the performance of public schools is very poor and deteriorating, and there is an urgent need to provide them with real support through posts and resources, as many buildings are in danger of ruin due to their age or failure to maintain and repair Is.” them properly.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, Maris Engel, an instructor at a government training center affiliated with the agriculture ministry, confirmed that French teachers are increasingly being subjected to abuse.

Specifically regarding the field of agricultural education, Angel said officials prefer to provide assistance to private institutions, noting that the training center – in which she has been working for about 25 years – has been without management for two years. Was, which forced the trainers to organize the work themselves, “These are disgusting and unacceptable working conditions.”

Meanwhile, her colleague Claire expressed displeasure over the funding given to private schools at the expense of public schools, saying, “Today we are facing an existential battle for the public sector, which is a matter of concern.”

A demonstration in Paris demanding better working conditions and protecting public schools
The French Teaching Union said that “the appointment of a part-time minister worsened the situation and made him lose his credibility” (Al Jazeera).

“Detached from reality”

The main teaching union in the country has expressed that this mobilization represents a “warning to the government”, which “remains deaf to all comments or condemnations made by those affected”, in a press statement adding – that “The situation has been made worse by the appointment of a part-time minister who has lost his credibility.”

Former junior tennis champion, Minister Emily O'Dea Castera was given the list of her duties at the Ministry of Education, as well as her sports portfolio, by former Minister Atal, a few months before the Paris Olympics.

It is not surprising that some protesters called for Castera's resignation, especially after his controversial statements after taking office, in which he called transferring his children from a public school to the elite private Stanislaus School a “bundle of hours.” With, which is not seriously compensated” justified.

Professor Delaporte believes the minister is “completely detached from reality and prefers the private sector, and we did not expect much from her because her ministerial role is limited only to implementing Atal and Macron's policies.”

During the Paris demonstration, Al Jazeera Net met French professor Jonathan, who shares the same concerns and demands with the rest, but he also came to express his solidarity with the Palestinian people, “especially My fellow Palestinian teachers who suffer from Israeli attacks that have continued for 75 years, and which have doubled in the Gaza Strip today.

Jonathan, a member of the “Education and Gaza” movement, explained that it is not possible to talk about our problems here today and at the same time accept that “Palestinian children, students and our colleagues in the profession will be targeted.” Israel.”

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