Teachers and parents react strongly to public meeting of Committee for Public Education in Australia
The Committee for Public Education (CFPE) in Australia held a productive online meeting on Saturday, with the participation of more than 100 people from urban and regional Australia, as well as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Almost half of those in attendance were attending their first CFPE meeting, having heard about the grassroots organization through its Facebook page and other social media. The participants thanked the CFPE for its political analysis and precise information. Others pointed out the conditions in the schools or the dangers their families face in a constant stream of chat messages during the meeting. Several expressed their relief to learn that they were not the only ones worried about the reopening of schools.
Saturday’s two-and-a-half-hour event was titled “Oppose Dangerous Reopening of Schools in Australia!” Train and join our grassroots safety action committees! He reviewed the dangers facing teachers, parents and students and the business interests that have motivated the decision by Australian governments and their international counterparts to reopen schools under conditions of rising coronavirus infections .
Detailed reports were provided by the national co-ordinator of the CFPE, Sue Phillips, Elle Chapman, member of the International Youth and Student for Social Equality, and Thomas Scripps, deputy national secretary of the Socialist Equality Party in Britain.
CFPE member and teacher Patrick O’Connor, who chaired the meeting, began with an overview of catastrophic increases in coronavirus infections and deaths internationally and the need for grassroots committees to protect Lives.
“The murderous policy of so-called collective immunity, or letting the virus tear itself apart, was previously publicly associated with the most extreme right-wing leaders – Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump. Now, however, this is the approach of virtually every government in the world, ”O’Connor said.
CFPE President Phillips explained the importance of the international seminar “How to end the pandemic” held on October 24, involving scientists and workers. Hosted by the World Socialist Website and the International Workers Alliance of Rank-and-File Committees, the webinar, which was viewed by over 20,000 people, highlighted the need and strategy for the global elimination of COVID-19.
Phillips has examined the rapid reversal of limited COVID-19 containment policies by Australian, state and federal governments, of all political stripes.
Australia had gone from “no cases of community transmission in early June to thousands in the following months.” In previous outbreaks, governments have said it is not safe to end lockdowns until community transmission is reduced to or near zero. Now the reverse is happening, ”she said.
Phillips said the warning in a recent CFPE statement “Oppose the Dangerous Reopening of Schools in Australia!” Form grassroots action safety committees! »Tragically confirmed.
“In the five weeks since the reopening, more than 540 schools have been closed or partially closed in Victoria and more than 300 in New South Wales”, while the government, the media, the Australian Education Union and The New South Wales Teachers Federation is consciously suppressing information on how common the infections are.
“Union newsletters have undoubtedly relayed government decisions and when CFPE members disagreed with union decisions at meetings, we were threatened with disorderly conduct and said we would be excluded from the meeting. Resolutions calling on the union to release data on school infections have been ignored or teachers have told the union they have no time to follow the work.
“This is why the CFPE fights for educators to form grassroots safety committees in every school and community, independent of unions, to develop the broadest public debate on the dangerous situation in schools… Humanity has the means to end the pandemic within months through an international elimination strategy.
Chapman, the next speaker, said children and young people were in great danger, but deep-rooted and increasingly angry opposition to government policies had emerged among students and parents. This opposition has resulted in petitions initiated by high school students and signed by thousands of people, calling for a resumption of online education and postponement of exams.
The so-called opposition, the Labor Party, had provided bipartisan support for the Liberal-National Coalition throughout the pandemic. Chapman compared it to comments from high school students posted on the WSWS about the grave dangers facing youth and working-class youth in particular – sentiments that have found no expression in corporate media.
A two-minute video of Lisa Diaz in Britain was shown just before the presentation by Scripps, the last speaker. Diaz and other parents in the “Safe Ed for All” group have staged weekly school strikes and other protests to oppose the Johnson government’s “herd immunity” back to classroom policies.
Scripps reviewed the devastating number of coronavirus deaths and infection rates in the UK – over 165,000 killed, over 580,000 hospitalized and over 1.2 million suffering from Long COVID. The deaths, he said, included 109 children. More than 69,000 children had Long COVID, including more than 10,000 for more than a year. Scripps explained the destructive impact of Long COVID on key organs – the lungs, heart, kidneys and brain.
“The burden of death and disease on the working class is staggering,” Scripps said. This disaster was the result of conscious policy choices by the Johnson government, backed by the Labor Party and unions, all of which were working to normalize death and serious illness from COVID.
“The task of crushing resistance among school workers has been handed to education unions, which have called for no strike action against the danger of the pandemic – in fact, they voted against one last November. , as cases in schools increased. The unions had allowed educators who spoke out about safety issues to be victimized.
Scripps said the Friday school strikes called by Diaz reflected a growing break of the working class with the unions and the Labor Party. “It must be encouraged, but it must also be developed. It is necessary, but not sufficient, to reject these completely rotten organizations altogether. The rebellion against trade union betrayals is only sustainable to the extent that something fundamentally new is built in their place.
“This is the importance of the grassroots committees of educators, transportation workers, manufacturing workers and others that we have started to establish internationally. These committees, by freeing workers from unions and empowering them to organize internationally to defend their own independent class interests, create the basis for a real fight against the pandemic, involving all necessary measures.
“The lesson of the UK, like everywhere else, is that the consequences are grave and that only the independent political intervention of the working class can avert a catastrophe,” he said.
These reports were followed by a one-hour question-and-answer session, contained in the video above.
This included an additional report from a CFPE member tasked with publishing daily data on school closures and school infections.
“No one else was collecting this data, no one was reporting it,” she said. “There are groups on Twitter who are re-tweeting our data, our comments and our work because that is the only source of this important data.”
Teachers and parents posted chat messages about the situations they faced, including the lack of adequate ventilation in classrooms, conflicting guidelines on mask wearing, and changes in definitions of “close contact” .
More than 150 discussions have been published, demonstrating the high level of engagement and the yawning political chasm between teachers, students and parents, as well as the official bipartisan and union-endorsed agenda “living with the virus”.
One parent commented: “My 7 year old became close contact twice in the first week all year levels returned to Victoria. She tested positive on day 5 and now her 4 year old brother is positive. We have a 2 year old who has yet to test positive, and the same for me and my partner, but we were basically told it was inevitable that we would catch him.
A parent from Shepparton, a regional town, reported that all elementary and secondary schools in the area had been affected, with the number of cases increasing from 32 to 40 per day, but schools remained open. In another conversation, she wrote: “No school closures mean schools are becoming vectors for this dangerous virus in our isolated community. This is something that we have managed to control twice with great success with Lockdown and Isolation. Parents are extremely stressed and worried.
A teacher from New Zealand thanked CFPE for their “incredibly valuable webinar” and described the situation that early childhood educators face in this country. “There is no requirement to wear a mask, with open doors and windows being advised as safe ventilation,” she wrote. “There has been very little media coverage of the cases that are occurring… As such, we just don’t know how many [centres] have had or currently have positive cases.
“Our schools have partially reopened and already, in the last 2 weeks alone, there were 7 schools with positive cases reported in the media. Yet parents and teachers are told reopening is safe. “
Another teacher responded to suggestions that petitions or similar protests could force governments to change their policies. “The policy of pressure has proven to be a dead end, time and time again,” he wrote. “’Let off steam’ may make you feel like you’ve accomplished something, but we need to move away from that perspective, especially when the ruling elites try to cover up all aspects of this crime. We need to develop and engage in independent grassroots security committees. “