Since the very end of March, there have been increasing amounts of school occupations throughout France. Provoked by the suppression of nearly 16,000 teaching posts, the closure of classes, the threatened closure of some of these schools and the consequent increases in class sizes, these occupations have been particularly concentrated on infant schools and primary schools, but have also included “Middle Schools” (“Collèges” for 11 to 14 or 15-year-olds) and those lycées with “Collèges” attached to them. Though it’s hard to gauge how many occupations there have been, it must be at least 250.
Starting off with just a 3 hour occupation at the end of March in an infant school in a village called Kernéval, south of Brest in the North West, this has spread throughout the country, with all night occupations lasting several days, often with parties, barbecues and the parents sleeping in tents in the playgrounds. In and around the Montpellier area in the South West there have been at least 15 (probably a lot more) occupations of infant and primary schools. And a bit further north in Lunel there have been several blockades of schools (as elsewhere) and also a blockade of the offices of the education section of the Prefecture.
The cuts to (mis)education, involving particularly the suppression of classes for those with learning difficulties, has been met with innumerable occupations especially of the schools in the poorer areas (though certainly not exclusively), which for obvious reasons are more effected by such cuts. The initiative for these occupations seems to have come mainly from parents, teachers explicitly saying that they have been heavily pressured to suffer – though not quite in silence, but rather into a practical acquiescence under protest.
News of these occupations have been largely restricted to local news, though just a couple of days ago, TF1, one of the main TV channels, known as Sharko’s favourite channel because its often quite unsubtle propaganda (his ex-wife’s brother is one of the heads of it), broadcast this (in French). In a sense, the fact that such a crap channel can put out a fairly neutral, if not favourable, take on these occupations is indicative of both their strength – they’ve become too extensive to ignore – and their weakness – they only confront the austerity programme but not the more profound question of the form, content and goals of miseducation (at least, not explicitly).
In many parts of France the Easter holidays have begun, but in those parts where they only begin tomorrow night, the occupations continue and many of the occupiers have vowed to continue the struggle after the Easter break. Unlike the lycée struggles, which tend to die out after Easter, these schools aren’t yet hampered by the pressure of looming exams in the summer term. So their promises to continue are very likely to be kept. Watch this space.