Teachers ‘exhausted’ from pandemic demands

Teachers and pupils in masks at a secondary school in Geneva (archive picture) Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

School teachers in the hard-hit French-speaking part of Switzerland say they are exhausted by the extra burdens arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. They are calling for more staff and resources.

This content was published on November 27, 2020 - 11:59

The Covid-19 situation in Switzerland has improved in the last week but hospitalisations and deaths remain high. On November 27, the country reported just over 4,300 new cases in the previous 24 hours. French-speaking cantons - which have been under tougher restrictions than the rest of the country - are still the most affected, even if they are reporting a sharper drop in new infections.

Schools, which were closed during the first Covid-19 wave in spring, remain open. The federal government did tighten measures in Swiss schools in late October, including making masks compulsory for teachers and pupils over 12. Any further restrictions have been left to individual cantons, which are in charge of educational matters in Switzerland.

The Association of French-speaking Teachers (SER)External link says the present situation means that teachers are now not only teaching classes on-site, but also supervising school work remotely for pupils in quarantine or who are ill, covering for absent staff – numbers of have risen during the pandemic – and supervising their replacements, and getting up to speed with new digital learning tools.

Teachers and school management, as well as other staff are “very tired” the association said on Thursday in a statement. “The lack of clarity and the many changes to the guidelines are only serving to make the problem worse,” it added.

“If this second wave continues, there is a danger that the system will implode under the present conditions.”

More staff needed

To avoid this – and to ensure that on-site school continues and there are equal opportunities for all pupils (the first lockdown exposed how some pupils from socially disadvantaged backgrounds were not continuing their learning without the school framework), the association is calling for “the authorities to make extra and specific funding available and to present clear rules”.

A teacher cannot take a class in school and at the same time offer similar, but individualised remote learning for children who are unwell or in quarantine, it warned.

SER president Samuel Rohrbach told Swiss public television RTS that the pressure on staff could be lessened by using student or retired teachers.

“Teachers have found themselves in a worse position during this crisis,” Rohrbach said. “But they have always responded. Teachers are not working for teachers, but for the pupils and their families. The resources we are calling for are for everyone’s benefit.”

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