Covid and school: the state rejects the evidence, workers resume struggles

4 May, 2021

Covid and school in the origin of the mass strike in Algeria
Covid and school in the origin of the mass strike in Algeria

Covid and schools continue to be at the center of the class struggle during the pandemic. In the months since the return to school after Christmas, states have striven to enforce the new normality in the education system from Argentina to France at the cost of contagions and through lies refuted even by their own research institutes. Meanwhile, from Brazil to Senegal via Great Britain, teachers are back in the struggle, and in Algeria they broke union control and imposed the payment of salary arrears throughout the country.

In this article

Argentina: Larreta and barbarism in CABA

Covid and school in Argentina: teachers strike in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA)
Covid and school in Argentina: teachers strike in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA)

In Argentina, where school strikes in different localities and provinces succeed one another, the the City of Buenos Aires openly disobeys court rulings forcing it to close schools, calls for reporting families who -following the court ruling- do not take their children to school and misleadingly announces that the situation in the schools is going great while teachers are dying and means are lacking:

In the schools we already have numerous teachers who have been infected while their relatives have died. Jorge is the first [to die] but unfortunately we cannot say that he will be the last one, the teacher said. [A trade unionist] demanded that the protocols be followed. And he added: The attendance should be limited and public transport should not be used. He then questioned the Buenos Aires education minister. [minister]Acuña said that everything is going very well and that this was a triumph of on-site attendance. We have been dealing with the geometric progression of what the cases imply. The government did not call us after yesterday, he lamented.

Teachers’ strike in Buenos Aires: they are claiming for the death of a teacher due to coronavirus. Perfil.

France: Macron government denies Pasteur Institute’s evidence linking Covid and school

In France, the government turned a deaf ear to the relationship between Covid and the school denounced by the Institut Pasteur and handed over the tests and proofs too late, obtaining less worrying results.
In France, the government turned a deaf ear to the relationship between Covid and school denounced by the Institut Pasteur and handed over the tests and proofs too late, obtaining less worrying results.

In France, where the movement that broke out last November was on the wane and strikes have continued but scattered and uncoordinated, the government keeps peddling its great job of controlling the pandemic in the media. There is an alleged normality, and the French government announces one day and against the published findings of its own research institutes, that schools are not relevant for the transmission of the virus and should be kept open :

On the government side, Jean-Michel Blanquer has continued to minimize any involvement of the school in the dynamics of the epidemic. Children who get contaminated, most of the time, when we trace back the chain of contamination, for the most part, it is not at all in the school where they got contaminated, but within the family, he said on March 19 on BFM TV.

These comments are in total contradiction with the results updated two weeks earlier by the Institute Pasteur, in its Comcor study, which pointed out that taking a child to junior high school or high school represented an excess risk of infection for adults, respectively of the order of +27% and +29%. In the same vein, the Minister of National Education has only repeated that school closures are by no means a miracle cure for the epidemic, as he did on the set of LCI on March 21. Once again, he was in total discordance with the scientific data.

School contamination: the viral russian roulette. Libération

On different days the French government claims that Covid and school are under control because it has been able to deliver the promised total number of saliva tests… Although this is a cheap trick, because according to teachers and unions these testsnever arrive when they are needed, which helps positivity to be low. Talking about the total number of tests hides the fact that they are not available on time.

The cruising speed of 300,000 tests per week, planned for mid-March, is almost reached: 300,000 tests have indeed been offered this week and by Friday night the figure of 250,000 tests performed should be reached, Jean-Michel Blanquer said. The result gives a positivity rate of 0.5%. It is still a reasonable rate, especially because, when we detect them, we break the chain of contamination, the minister said.

But, on the ground, the reality is different from what is announced in the press or on television. Here, there are delays of up to thirteen days between the appearance of cases in a school and the arrival of saliva tests. There, the tests never arrive, even if the children are sick. Elsewhere, the principals receive the material without really being informed of the procedure to be followed.

In Poitiers (Vienne), in the Couronneries district, the warning had been launched a fortnight ago by the teachers’ unions, after several cases of Covid-19 were identified among adults in a nursery school. It took eleven days to organize tests at the school on Tuesday, said Gilles Tabourdeau, departmental secretary of the SNUipp-FSU. It is clear that the national education system does not have the means to deploy the tests on schedule. In fact, we are far from carrying out the tests immediately and, in the meantime, the virus has time to circulate.

Covid-19: in schools, saliva tests raise doubts, while nasopharyngeal tests are poorly accepted in high school, Le Monde.

The stunt was so brazen and made so much noise that even deputies from the ruling party itself showed their discomfort with Minister Blanquer. But for the moment nothing is stopping the attempt to impose a supposed new normality in the narrative and the media, even if in reality there is no normality at all. Covid and schools continue to be a dangerous combination. Classes are still cramped, resources and manpower are lacking and protocols cannot be enforced.

Workers respond from Great Britain to Senegal via Brazil

In Dakar, Senegal, teachers mobilize. The combination of Covid and open schools with no security has already cost the lives of at least 20 teachers in the capital city.
In Dakar, Senegal, teachers mobilize. The combination of Covid and schools with no security has already cost the lives of at least 20 teachers in the capital city.

However, the class is not passive and there continue to be struggles and outbreaks of relevant dimensions in several continents, evidencing the deadly relationship between Covid and school. From the small strikes by British teachers against the lack of protective measures against covid in their classrooms, to the large high school teacher strikes in the Dakar region of Senegal which took as one of their banners the fight against the lack of measures against covid, which by February had already killed 20 of their teachers.

In Brazil, teachers have kept fighting and denouncing the relationship between covid and school for months. In Sao Paulo, 60,000 teachers defied their unions’ containment measures in order to continue strikes in mid-February, shutting down more than 500 schools. And the struggle continues, just a week ago, they managed to close 314 schools in Sao Paulo alone. And the strikes are not limited to the Sao Paulo area, they are spreading to Belo Horizonte and Manaus as well.

Algeria: teachers overturn union control

Teachers of Sidi Bel Abbès protest by breaking union control and denouncing the relationship between Covid and school
Teachers of Sidi Bel Abbès protest by breaking union control and denouncing the relationship between Covid and school

As we can see in Brazil, workers do not give up even in the face of union inaction and sabotage. The most resounding and important case occurred last week in Algeria, where education workers bypassed the unions – who were opposed to decreeing a national strike – and declared a wildcat strike outside the unions, they fought by themselves as a class.

The situation in Algeria is very tense, with an escalation of strikes these past few weeks, stagnant wages and general inflation. There were already big strikes of education workers a few months ago, triggered by covid, lack of means and unpaid wages , but this time they have fought across the country for their needs by breaking the union straitjacket:

Although spontaneous and non-unionized, the strike of teachers at all three levels, announced for yesterday, has spread in the eastern region, according to echoes reaching us. […] Although it is difficult to give an index of participation in this movement, the stoppages recorded in several schools in different wilayas in the East indicate a relatively large support.

This is the case of Constantine, where the strike has affected several schools, including primary and secondary schools. At first, we did not join the movement because of the lack of a union framework. But we decided to join the strike as of Monday (last week) after seeing the participation rate, which exceeded 80% in other schools and high schools,” said a teacher at Boukhalkhal Chaabane elementary school in the new town of Massinissa.

Education strike: Harsh socio-professional conditions denounced in the East. Al Watan

In the face of the strike, the state rushed to pay part of the arrears in wages and the unions scrambled running on the heels of the class, desperate to call strike assemblies controlled by them with which they hoped to regain control.

At first it looked as if the unions were reinstituting their framework, but Algerian workers have learned an important lesson. If they want their demands to be met and their needs met they are going to have to fight for themselves, forcing the apparatus and twisting the arm of their binders. At the time of editing this article we have new news of strikes by teachers in the Southwest, in the towns of Sidi Bel Abbès, Relizane, Béchar and Tiaret joined by workers from other sectors, with the unions once again appearing in an attempt to regain control.

Many similar strikes are coming soon. All over the world, the unions, like the state of which they are a part, want to abort the struggles. Struggles are too dangerous for capital in the midst of a crisis like none before in more than a century. To carry forward the most basic protests today is to break the cordon sanitaire that the unions, the state, and the media establish around the workers. Therefore, what is valid for the Algerian workers is also valid as a lesson for the rest of the class, for all of us in our struggle and our day to day life. In whichever country we may find ourselves in.