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French teachers anxious as schools gradually reopen after Covid-19 lockdown

Issued on: 12/05/2020 – 15:13Modified: 12/05/2020 – 15:13

Thousands of French schools started to r..

Issued on: 12/05/2020 – 15:13Modified: 12/05/2020 – 15:13

Thousands of French schools started to reopen this week as the country emerged from an eight-week lockdown to contain Covid-19. Teachers prepared for pupils according to a strict protocol – with masks, hand sanitiser and markings on the ground for social distancing. But some worried that the measures might not be enough to keep staff and children safe.

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At Hazay primary school in Cergy, a suburb northwest of Paris, the staff briefing had to take place in the gym. “The classrooms are too small for a group of teachers, even a small one,” said the headteacher, Olivier Flipo, who is also a delegate for the UNSA trade union. This is one of many ways in which “we have to reinvent the school”, he continued.

On May 14, five teachers of the schools 13 permanent staff members will welcome 39 of the 259 pupils back to classes. That is around 15 percent, in line with government guidelines. The children were chosen at their families request and on the basis of three criteria: the parents do essential work, the children have special educational needs, or a family situation requires the child's return to school. “A single parent who needs to go back to work, for example,” Flipo explained.

“Its potentially dangerous,” Flipo said. “Except we dont set the rules; the government says the kids are going back to school and we follow the directives they set out.”

Each school implements these rules according to its means. “The directives went through the local education authority, then the inspectorate, then the local inspector before it was sent back to headteachers – you get as many bureaucracies as you get schools,” Flipo said.

Delusional sanitary measures

There was an even trickier situation at the Évangile primary school, in Pariss northern 18th arrondissement (district): on Monday morning it emerged that the headteacher would be unable to go in to work because his wifes health was judged to be at risk.

“We suspected as much, but it means that one of the other teachers will have to take over, because theres a lot to manage with 30 pupils coming back,” one teacher said.

As the school reopened that day, the nine teachers (out of 12) who went back to work also learned that the education ministry had not, in fact, provided face masks.

“We had to use masks provided by the local council,” said Charlotte, a teacher of 7-8 year olds. The package finally arrived at the end of the morning – with just one bottle of hand sanitiser for the five classes. The school also lacked disinfectant wipes and tape for floor markings to facilitate social distancing.

In light of this situation, the staff at the Évangile sent a request to local education authorities for the school to be closed if supplies did not arrive on time.

Describing the sanitary measures as “delusional”, Flipo said that the situation put headteachers under “a great deal of pressure”. On a blog he uses along with 49 other primary school headteachers in Cergy, he found that stress was a big problem for his colleagues.

“Its like a storm hits us whenever were faced with an issue,” he said. Despite everything, he says he is staying calm, give or take some spells of insomnia during which he “thinks a lot”.

Every issue that comes up prompts a series of meetings with the inspectorate and the mayor. Flipo is in constant contact with them, as well as with parents associations.

The idea of children going back to school with social distancing measures is bemusing, Charlotte said, “especially when you dont have the right sanitary equipment”. She noted that the 30 pupils returning to the Évangile constitute just five students per class – half the proportion recommended by the government.

Anxiety-inducing environment

Charlotte was delighted at the prospect of seeing her pupils, but less so about teaching them in the context of the coronavirus crisis. There will be no possibility of playing in groups, for example: “The buildingRead More – Source

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Madeleine McCann presumed dead, German prosecutor says

Issued on: 04/06/2020 – 14:59Modified: 04/06/2020 – 14:59

Madeleine McCann, the British girl who d..

Issued on: Modified:

Madeleine McCann, the British girl who disappeared in Portugal in 2007 aged just three, is assumed to be dead and an imprisoned German child abuser is the murder suspect, a German prosecutor said on Thursday.

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McCann vanished from her bedroom on May 3 during a family vacation in the Algarve while her parents were dining with friends nearby in the resort of Praia da Luz.

Her disappearance sparked an international search, with missing posters of the little girl's face papered across the world and celebrity appeals for information that could help track her down and bring her abductors to justice.

"We assume that the girl is dead," Braunschweig state prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said. "The public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig is investigating a 43-year-old German national on suspicion of murder."

German police said on Wednesday the suspect, who had lived near Praia da Luz, had made a spontaneous decision to kill McCann during a break-in of the apartment where she was sleeping. They were treating the case as suspected murder.

No body has ever been found. But the German statements that the young girl was assumed dead were the most authoritative thus far on her fate. Family and supporters had always held out the hope that she might still be alive somewhere.

McCann's parents said they wanted to find peace but that the German suspect was potentially very significant.

"All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice," her parents, Kate and Gerry, said in a statement issued before the German prosecutor spoke.

"We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace."

Drugs and burglary

Prosecutor Wolters said the suspect was a sex offender with multiple convictions, including for sexual abuse of chiRead More – Source

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Covid-19 in Hungary: Are emergency powers being used against the opposition?

Issued on: 04/06/2020 – 12:36Modified: 04/06/2020 – 12:36

In Hungary, many opposition-run municipa..

Issued on: 04/06/2020 – 12:36Modified: 04/06/2020 – 12:36

In Hungary, many opposition-run municipalities accuse the government of taking advantage of the emergency decrees passed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and using the legislation for political purposes. Many large cities, including the capital Budapest, elected an opposition mayor during the local elections of October 2019. The ruling Fidesz party is accused of using its new powers to curb the management of those opposition-run cities, whether it's bRead More – Source

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Putin declares state of emergency over Siberian diesel spill

Issued on: 04/06/2020 – 11:47Modified: 04/06/2020 – 11:47

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wedn..

Issued on: 04/06/2020 – 11:47Modified: 04/06/2020 – 11:47

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered a state of emergency and criticised a subsidiary of metals giant Norilsk Nickel after a massive diesel spill into a Siberian river.

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The spill of over 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel took place on Friday. A fuel reservoir collapsed at a power plant near the city of Norilsk, located above the Arctic Circle, and leaked into a nearby river.

During a televised video conference, Putin lambasted the head of the Norilsk Nickel subsidiary that runs the power plant, NTEK, after officials said it failed to report the incident.

"Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Are you quite healthy there?" Putin asked NTEK chief Sergei Lipin in an unusually stern dressing-down.

Norilsk Nickel said in a statement that NTEK had reported what happened in a "timely and proper" way.

Krasnoyarsk region governor Alexander Uss told Putin he only "learned of the real situation" on Sunday after "alarming information appeared in social media".

Putin said he agreed that a national state of emergency was needed to call in more resources for the cleanup effort.

Russia's Investigative Committee, which deals with major incidents, announced that it launched three criminal probes over environmental violations and detained an employee of the power plant.

It released video footage shot on a mobile phone that appears to show fuel cascading down from the reservoir and under a fence.

World Wildlife Fund expert Alexei Knizhnikov told AFP the environmental group was the one who alerted cleanup specialists after confirming the accident through its sources.

"These are huge volumes," he said. "It was difficult for them to cover it up."

The volume of the spill is vastly larger than a major 2007 spill in the Kerch strait of the Black Sea that involved 5,000 tonnes of oil, the WWF expert said.

The Kerch spill, which at the time was the largest Russia had experienced, required the intervention of the military and hundreds of volunteers.

Troops could help clean-up

Knizhnikov said diesel fuel is lighter than oil, so it is likely to evaporate rather than sink, but it is "more toxic to clean up".

Environment Minister Dmitry Kobylkin said only the emergencieRead More – Source

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