French teachers strike over virus-linked class disruptions, exhaustion

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PARIS (AP) – Less than two weeks after the winter term began, French teachers are already tired of the pressure of rising COVID-19 cases.

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On Thursday, French teachers are walking into a nationwide strike organized by teacher unions to protest class disruptions linked to the virus and ever-changing isolation rules.

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France is at the center of Europe’s current fight against COVID-19, with new infections, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, topping a day in recent days. Teachers are upset and want clarification on rules and more protection, such as additional masks and tests, to help deal with the stress.

“The month of January is tough (for schools),” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blancar admitted on France 2 television. His ministry counted 50,000 new COVID-19 cases among students in “recent days” and a large number of classes were closed because of the virus: 10,553. The figures are expected to worsen in the coming weeks.

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The SNUIPP teachers’ union says there is growing discontent among French teachers. Since January 6, authorities have already implemented two changes to the rules for testing school children, causing whiplash to many. The union expects about 75% of teachers to go on strike, with half the schools closed across the country.

“Since the start of the January school year the situation has created an indescribable disturbance among school staff and a strong sense of abandonment and anger,” the union said.

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