With stringent rules in place, including social distancing and face masks, children have not had an easy start to the school year.

Since 29 October, All French students above the age of five must wear a mask at all times. In Monaco too, face masks for children have been the topic of debate. They are now compulsory for all children above the age of four. 

No pupil has contracted Covid-19 in schools since the start of the 2020 school year

“They feel dressed up”

According to Isabelle Bonnal, Head of the Department of Education, Youth and Sport, mask-wearing is almost like a game for children, an occasion to dress up: “They feel dressed up, as if they are about to go to the carnival,” she says.

Monaco schools now have to abide by a strict protocol. “The mixing and gathering of students and staff have been restricted, with the introduction of staggered entry and exit times and traffic directions,” says Isabelle Bonnal, adding that “no pupil has contracted Covid-19 in schools since the start of the 2020 school year”. Thanks to such statistics, a return to remote teaching is not under consideration, news which Bonnal welcomes. “During the first confinement, some students were feeling very low because they missed their teacher too much,” she says.

Unions speak up

There has been controversy around mask wearing for young children, as it is between the ages of six and seven that children start to learn more complicated words. Could masks cause learning difficulties around pronunciation?  Isabelle Bonnal says Monaco has the solution to the problem. “We’ve proposed transparent masks so that children can reproduce the same mouth movements as their teacher,” she explains.

In nearby Nice, teacher unions have been denouncing the current health measures in place in schools, saying that not enough has been done to guarantee student safety. “We want the protocol to be strengthened in order to prevent a second school closure. It would be a disaster because children and pupils have already fallen behind,” said a trade union member during a demonstration in Nice.

A new council to ensure a safe environment

To ensure a generalised and homogenous action plan, the school board of the City of Nice has created a council. “The rector has asked institutions to propose projects to facilitate good teaching conditions while also respecting health measures. Proposals are then quickly processed to ensure rapid implementation,” explains Emmanuel Erard, a member of the council.