France’s education minister under holiday fire at key Covid moment

A bitter dispute over Covid precautions in French schools turned into a political scandal on Tuesday as local media reported that the country’s education minister was on vacation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza while a controversial new testing protocol was taking shape.

The minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has led efforts to keep French schools open in the face of a sharp rise in cases caused by the Omicron variant, but parents, teachers and school workers have complained that the rules in force are confusing and also change often.

Mr Blanquer announced new coronavirus measures for the school in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper on January 2 – during the weekend before schools resumed after their Christmas holidays, leaving little time for schools and students to adapt. Mr Blanquer said last week he had acted at the last minute because the ministry needed time to consult with health authorities to ensure plans reflected a rapidly changing situation.

Then, on Monday evening, investigative news site Mediapart reported that Mr Blanquer had not been monitoring the situation from France when the protocol was announced – instead he reported that he was in holiday for several days in Ibiza, a sunny Spanish resort. island known for its beaches and party scene.

Although he did not breach any travel restrictions, Mr Blanquer admitted to lawmakers in Parliament on Tuesday that his choice of destination was wrong.

“Would the decisions have been different if I had been somewhere else? No, ”said Mr. Blanquer, while adding that he should have chosen another vacation spot.

“I regret the symbolism,” Mr. Blanquer said, noting that his priority was to keep schools open. “That is what is crucial. Let’s not get lost in the auxiliary.

The case sparked outrage on social media, where a 2018 video of Mr Blanquer awkwardly mixing in a primary school classroom was reused at mock him.

Political opponents surged, with many on the left calling for Mr Blanquer’s resignation and teachers’ unions expressing dismay that Mr Blanquer was on vacation even as teachers and principals were still in the dark about protocol at to come.

“There really is a gap between what Ibiza represents and what our colleagues were experiencing on a daily basis on the eve of the start of the school year,” said Guislaine David, spokesperson for SNUipp-FSU, a teachers’ union. said on franceinfo radio Tuesday.

The French government on Tuesday offered its support to Mr Blanquer, saying he had been heavily involved in setting up the protocol and that his holiday arrangements complied with informal rules dictating that ministers should not travel too far from Paris.

Comments are closed.