After two months of distance education for the new coronavirus, the return to face-to-face classes last week was marked by controversy in France, where parents, students and teachers expressed mixed feelings about the reopening of establishments, in a country in the that the pandemic caused more than 144,000 infected and 28,000 deaths.
When French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced in late April the reopening of schools as an “imperative of social justice” and “pedagogical” before Parliament, opposition MPs criticized the measure as premature and forced.
The legislators rejected, above all, that the resumption of classes is “voluntary” and not compulsory, for leaving that decision “odious” and “distressing” to the parents.
The measure also went against the opinion of the Committee of Scientists and the Federation of Physicians, who saw it as “a useless risk”, but the French Association of Pediatrics supported it, considering that Covid-19 affected little to children and these they were less contagious than adults.
It is a complicated return because the teachers are divided between the joy of finding their students again and the fact of returning in these conditions that have nothing to do with the school of old ”
Francette Popineau, spokesperson for the SNUipp-FSU teacher union
The government defended the initiative as a “priority challenge” to reincorporate “lost” students into distance education and organized meetings with unions, parents’ associations, local authorities and experts to define the progressive return to classrooms.
On May 11 it was the turn of reopening nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools across the country, while last Monday secondary schools were resumed, but only for students from 11 to 13 years old and in areas where the virus circulation was less.
“It is a complicated return because the teachers are divided between the joy of finding their students again and the fact of returning in these conditions that have nothing to do with the school from before,” said Francette Popineau, spokeswoman for the SNUipp-FSU teacher union, the most important in the country.
For Popineau, educators are “disturbed” because for the safety and health of children, “they must prevent them from living their lives as children.”
Feelings experienced by Laetitia Boute, a primary school teacher at a school in Boulogne-sur-Mer, in the north of the country, who is afraid of the rigidity of the health protocol and happy to find her students, although at the moment only four of 27 returned to the classroom.
In his institution, located in a disadvantaged area of the city, only 15% of the total students returned to classes, while in the more affluent neighborhoods the figure rises to 80%.
“The lack of understanding deepened the differences between social media. We lost a dozen students in these two months,” admitted the teacher in dialogue with ..
According to what he explained, many of the parents chose not to send their children to class for three reasons: they can take care of them at home due to not having a job, they are very afraid of the virus and, in the end, school is not a priority for them.
“But the children who returned are happy and not at all traumatized by the protocol,” he said.
A statement shared by Claire and Francois, who decided to send their three children back to the garden because they felt that the abnormality of the isolation affected them.
“The boys came back happy. They shared with us more about the garden than before and we noticed that it is good for them to go,” Francois said.
As the classes were divided, the children go twice a week, instead of four, but the return helped this family from the outskirts of Lyon, in the southeast of the country, to breathe a little and find a balance, they said.
Both said they were satisfied with the measures taken and the teachers’ efforts to respect the rules without sacrificing contact with the students.
“There is no paranoia to the point of not touching children anymore,” said Claire, who, however, was affected by a song her three-year-old son was taught that says they should not touch others to protect themselves. .
“I found it sad, it is a bit the opposite of everything we want to teach them,” he acknowledged.
The children who returned are happy and not at all traumatized by the protocol ”
Laetitia Boute, primary school teacher
The strict sanitary measures were precisely what pushed the Tresserras, a family living on a farm in the south-west of the country, not to take their children back to the garden.
“The sanitary protocol seemed too restrictive to us and, at the moment, the boys do not want to return,” explained the mother.
Other parents, on the other hand, had no choice because of having to resume their jobs.
This was the case of Lucie Bauster, a biology teacher at a bilingual secondary school in the suburbs of Lyon, who expressed her happiness at returning to face-to-face teaching, although she did not hide her fears.
“We are tense and, in addition, tired because these last months we had triple the work,” he said, referring to distance education.
Meanwhile, Isabel Nebreda, a Spanish teacher in two high schools on the outskirts of Paris, continued with the telematic classes because she was in a so-called red zone, where the reopening of schools will be decided next Thursday based on the evolution of the pandemic .
When asked about the balance of these two weeks, the Ministry of Education opted for prudence.
“It is a very progressive reopening and we are still waiting for the directives that the government will give next week to know how to continue,” they concluded.