Teachers and parents strike back to back

Classrooms on the French Riviera were emptier than usual this week as teachers unions and parent groups were both protesting reforms announced last summer by minister of education Vincent Peillon.

Parents throughout the Côte d’Azur refused to bring their children to school on 13th of November, and an estimated half of teachers in the region were on strike on the 14th.

Among the changes in the educational system, which should come into effect nationally next September, an extra half day will be added to the current four-day school week, either on Wednesdays or Saturdays. Until then most schools are closed on Wednesdays, however, 13th of November was supposed to be an exception as schools were catching up on a missing day.

Parents used this occasion to express discontent by staging an “empty classrooms” strike. Both main parents unions – FCPE in favour of the reforms and PEEP who remain silent on the issue – were short-circuited in the operation which was organised online.

In Mouans-Sartoux, one of the few towns in the Côte d’Azur to have adopted the four-and-a-half school week a year early, parents are complaining that their children are exhausted from the extra classes on Wednesday mornings.

Protesters tell President Hollande to "change his own rhythm"
Protesters tell President Hollande to “change his own rhythm”

Teachers on the French Riviera seem especially passionate about this issue. On Thursday, the 56 percent of teachers on strike in the Alpes Maritimes and the 46 percent in the Var dwarf the nation-wide average of 25 percent.

Right wing mayors across the country, including Chrisitan Estrosi in Nice and Bernard Brochand in Cannes, support the strikes. On his Twitter account, on Wednesday, Estrosi declared he would not put the new school week into effect next September. He also called upon all mayors in the Alpes Maritimes to join the protest in Nice on Thursday.

But labour unions won’t have any of it. They consider the support to be nothing more than political opportunism. The Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) stated that they “reject the calls and support from political representatives who contributed to the dismantling of public schools during Sarkozy’s presidency.”

Also published on the Riviera Times Online