The crown numbers have been on the rise for weeks. They are particularly high in schools. How worried are you about the current situation?
My concern is very great. The situation in schools particularly worries me because I support the goal of keeping them open – if possible – so that children and young people can learn for themselves. The same is true for nurseries, but also for universities and adult education institutions. However, this goal is becoming less and less achievable. Many schools are already closed, especially in regions and federal states with very high incidences such as Saxony or Bavaria. The situation is extremely tense.
On the weekend there was a sold out stadium in Cologne. Two weeks earlier, the carnival season had been announced, sometimes closely embraced. How does it feel?
Mass events, people celebrating with no distance, overcrowded buses and trains arriving, I have no idea. This is not good when the other party is discussing closing schools.
How are the teachers coping with the situation?
The last school year was the hardest we’ve ever experienced. This applies to both students and parents and school employees. Almost all school workers have been vaccinated, but as they were given priority and most were vaccinated in the spring, vaccine protection is now in rapid decline. This means that hundreds of thousands of educators now need a booster vaccination quickly and unbureaucratically. The GEW expectation is therefore clear: employees must be vaccinated as a priority for school to continue. For this we need a rapid increase in vaccination capacities. Therefore, it was a serious mistake to close the vaccination centers.
Vaccination will be mandatory for nurses in the future. However, the GEW rejects them for teachers. Why?
There are various reasons. But the decisive factor is that we already have a 95 percent vaccination rate among school employees. If we introduce compulsory vaccination, the implicit message sounds that everything will automatically be fine in schools. But is not so. So far, children under the age of twelve cannot be vaccinated at all. To protect them, far more measures need to be taken than before, such as air filters, masks and of course a much more sophisticated testing concept. I think it would be more effective for employees to have their employees tested every day, regardless of whether they have recovered, vaccinated or not, than mandatory vaccination.
We enter the second winter with Corona. Are the schools better prepared this time than last year?
Vaccinations have already greatly improved the situation. It wasn’t there a year ago. Aside from that, there is still a lot to do. Although there is usually a concept of testing, it often does not correspond to the dynamics of the infection. I am very much in favor of more tests in schools. The same goes for air filters: the funds made available for this are often not accessed or accessed only very slowly. In many schools they are not or are not sufficiently available. It is very frustrating.
Earlier this year, the federal government made € 500 million available for schools to deliver laptops to teachers. It worked?
This was an important step in improving distance learning, but procurement often took too long. Most teachers now have a device, but this often doesn’t meet the requirements at all. After all, a tablet can’t be used for everything a laptop would actually need. This also frustrates many teachers. But it is also symptomatic.
In which way?
It has long been known that education in Germany is underfunded. In the last year, however, something else has become more than clear: the politicians are too hesitant. We have to fight for every measure, be it additional corona tests or air filters. This is extremely exhausting, especially when the importance of education is always emphasized.
In your nomination speech for the GEW presidency in the summer, you focused on respecting the work of teachers. Where do you see the need to improve?
First of all, we need a social consensus that jobs in education are essential to our society and our democracy. Therefore, everyone who works here deserves special recognition and respect. It is therefore fundamentally unacceptable for politicians to make disparaging remarks about teachers. They are also not doing their role as employers justice. Of course, respect has something to do with money too. Nearly 200,000 teachers are employed. They don’t have to be financially worse than their fellow civil servants. After all, they are doing the same job. A third point is teacher training. It is necessary to ensure that prospective teachers are well prepared for what awaits them in schools, and not just in terms of content. And we should significantly improve the conditions for the side and side entrances.
How do you assess Monday’s wage agreement in this context?
This is an agreement that came with the explosion in the number of infections and the hospitals full, or in a very difficult situation of the Crown crisis. In light of this situation, the conclusion is justifiable. However, like us, many employees expected more. However, employers were unwilling to live up to their social responsibility during the Crown crisis and give employees the material recognition they deserved. It’s disappointing because workers have been keeping the country running during the pandemic for over a year and a half.
Corona revealed the shortcomings that have existed for a long time in the education system. What expectations do you have about the traffic light coalition?
Education is essentially a matter for the federal states and I think that’s right. However, the standards must be established at the national level. To do this, we need far more opportunities for the federal government to participate in education funding. We have seen time and time again and in different places that the federal government can only (co) finance projects for a limited period of time due to the cooperation ban. Furthermore, the processes are often very complicated. All this means that the funds arrive very late and only temporarily where they are needed. The new coalition should therefore completely abolish the ban on cooperation. But not only is more money needed for education, but also a different distribution: with the digital compact, we saw that children and young people in low-income families were clearly disadvantaged in the distribution of end devices. It can happen that a child in Bremen receives the equivalent of 170 euros, while a child in Bavaria receives 700 euros. It is not fair that children are treated so unequally. If we want to ensure more equal opportunities, we need to distribute money differently. More funds must flow to where disadvantaged families live.