During Wednesday’s Consultative Committee, the government decided to keep open nursery classes, despite closing primary, secondary and higher education schools, which has resulted in anger from education providers and unions.
In response, Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts has called on parents who are able to take care of their toddlers to not send them to nursery schools.
“In contrast to secondary and primary education, nursery classes will remain open next week. Preschool education is now in danger of being the victim. The entire field of education wants to show solidarity, asks for recognition, and wants the pressure on nursery schools to be lifted,” a press release from Weyts read.
It was Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, a fellow party member of Weyts, who first fought to keep the nurseries open. Originally, he had also argued to keep primary schools open but was forced to concede on this, resulting in Weyts saying: “We stuck to the conviction that we should give priority to our education. But to my regret, in the end, we were the only ones to do so.”
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Following the announcement, the COV/AVC, the largest trade union in primary education, responded with disappointment, as “the limit of what is possible has also been reached in nursery education for a long time,” its General Secretary Marianne Coopman said.
She emphasised that more than other forms of education, nursery schools are “pre-eminently a crossroads of human contact and therefore of contamination.”
In response, the ACOD teaching union also called on parents not to send toddlers to school next week and submitted a strike notice, finding it “incomprehensible that it is precisely the nursery schools that are left open.”
“They have to work in the most unsafe conditions: they don't wear mouth masks, are not vaccinated, and cannot keep their distance,” General Secretary Nancy Libert told De Standaard.
It has also been pointed out that, due to the closing of other education levels, many nursery school teachers will become unavailable if they suddenly have to take care of their own children.
According to Weyts’ spokesperson, there is a fear this will be a lot of pressure on the nursery schools, as many of them currently have children or supervisors in quarantine, which could further lead to a lot of practical problems in terms of organisation.
The COV, the Christian Education Centre (COC), and the Free Syndicate for Public Education (VSOA-Onderwijs) have not yet announced a strike, and will first meet with their boards, and are expected to make an announcement on Friday.
The Brussels Times