- The Guardian
- Issue #2003
While the Morrison government acts as if the pandemic is for all intents and purposes over, workers on the frontlines know that this is far from reality. Teachers are one such group of workers who, as a result of the pandemic, experienced some of the roughest conditions.
With COVID-19 infecting thousands of people a day, students and teachers alike are struggling. In early April, one in five public school students across NSW were absent from the classroom. However, despite the drastic decrease in school attendance, schools are still understaffed as teachers are also infected, resulting in teaching staff supervising as many as three classes at one time. As a result, the quality of education students receive has been sub-standard.
Cronulla High School (Sydney) stated in its newsletter that “The infection and close contacts of the teachers, has, at times, seen our full-time and casual teachers stretched […].This has resulted in a small number of senior classes not being able to be covered. This is not ideal and it is something we will continue to try and avoid, but it will remain a challenge in this current climate.”
Even worse still is that NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard states that “at least fifty per cent of cases” are not being recorded, making it difficult to contain the virus.
NSW is not the only state in the commonwealth having issues in the education sector; Western Australia also faces similar challenges with 5,600 staff testing positive in schools across Western Australia, only five per cent of the state’s schools have escaped COVID cases among staff and students. Because of these staff shortages, one teacher told the ABC that “The school has had to lean into the goodwill of a lot of teachers to take up internal relief. They’re full load already. They’re doing extra work on top of that.”
Unions are speaking out against the lack of government support for teachers. The NSW Teachers’ Federation have called out the Morrison government’s lack of spending in public schools. They state that a new report finds that there is a “$1.35 billion government funding shortfall for public schools, while private schools are being overfunded to the tune of $287 million,” adding that this “equates to public schools missing out on $1,633 per student every year, while private schools are overfunded by $647 per student. […] At the moment, Public schools are only receiving 88 per cent of their minimum level of funding. Effectively, that means one in eight kids are not being funded at all. That is more than 100,000 children.”
Senior vice president Matthew Jarman of the State School Teachers’ Union of WA stated that “We need to see an emphasis placed upon the health and well-being of our teachers and school leaders otherwise workforce shortages will be a legacy issue from COVID the community will not want.”
It is important that we fight for better wages and conditions for teachers. Future generations depend on quality education and without it all of us suffer. This May Day we must demand better government support for the education sector!