‘We are just tired’: Belgian teachers protest working conditions and financial cuts

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After two years of school closures and government-imposed COVID measures, thousands of Belgium’s Francophone teachers and school staff took to the streets of Brussels on Tuesday to protest working conditions and financial cuts.

According to them, oversized classes, school buildings in urgent need of repair, and general staff shortages are all contributing to overall frustration. The pandemic just worsened an already existing problem.

The teachers are tired and say they cannot take it anymore.

“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 at the protest 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 demonstration of French-speaking teachers was in 2011, but this time there is much more anger, with every union supporting the protest.

They argue that protocols change constantly and they now spend a lot of their time managing absences, adding to the confusion.

And above all, they say the authorities are only interested in reducing 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 protesting teacher said.

If the situation worsens, the workers say they will work to forge alliances with their European colleagues to demand real change and for the authorities to understand that school is an investment in the future.

In an interview with the Belgian media on Thursday, the Wallonian minister responsible for education, Pierre-Yves Jeholet, highlighted the additional money made available by the Walloon government to help manage the pandemic, but stressed that funds are “not unlimited”.

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