Thousands of Belgian Francophone teachers and school workers rallied to the streets of Brussels on Tuesday to protest working conditions and budget cuts after two years of school closures and government-imposed COVID measures.
Overcrowded classes, dilapidated school buildings, and general staff shortages, they claim, all contribute to overall dissatisfaction. The pandemic just exacerbated an existing problem.
The teachers are exhausted and can no longer handle the current situation.
“We give everything to our students. We do everything on a computer. We try to deal with questions, absences, illnesses, but we are just tired,” one teacher told Euronews.
“Our classes are too large, with handicapped children that we need to help, who need extra support while the rest of the class does something else. My first demand is to reduce the number of pupils per class,” another said.
The last time French-speaking teachers demonstrated was in 2011, but this time there is even greater outrage, with every union backing the protest.
They claim that protocols are always changing, and that they now spend a significant amount of time monitoring absences, which adds to the uncertainty.
Above all, they claim that the authorities are simply concerned with cutting costs.
“It is the best job in the world. We all love our work, but they don’t give us the means to continue loving our job,” a teacher said.
If the situation worsens, the workers say they would form coalitions with their European counterparts to demand real change and for the authorities to recognize that school is a long-term investment.
Pierre-Yves Jeholet, the Wallonian minister responsible for education, underlined the additional money made available by the Walloon government to help handle the pandemic in an interview with Belgian media on Thursday, but stressed that funding are “not unlimited.”