Mali Teachers Strike Over COVID-19 Concerns As Schools Reopen

Malian pupils wear face masks in the classroom of a school as the government decided to resume lessons after two months of closure due to the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, in Bamako on June 2, 2020. MICHELE CATTANI / AFPMalian pupils wear face masks in the classroom of a school as the government decided to resume lessons after two months of closure due to the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, in Bamako on June 2, 2020. MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

Teachers in the West African state of Mali went on strike Tuesday, the first day schools reopened after being closed for two months, over fears of inadequate protection against coronavirus.

Details of the number of students affected were unavailable, but seven teachers’ unions are striking, officials said, in a move that will hit public primary and secondary schools, as well as teacher-training colleges.

The government shut schools to curb coronavirus in late March. These reopened on Tuesday, but only for final year students who are facing exams.

Sambou Diadie Fofana, the general secretary of Mali’s National Union of Secondary School Teachers, told AFP that the strike was triggered by a “lack of measures (taken) in schools to protect everyone”.

Authorities have recorded 1,351 coronavirus cases in the country to date, with 78 fatalities.

Mali’s education ministry did not immediately respond about the number of students and teachers who returned to school on Tuesday.

In a meeting with education organisations on Monday, Mali’s Education Minister Mahamadou Famanta promised that facemasks and hand-washing kits would be available in schools, local media reported.

Moussa Diallo, 41, a unionised public-school teacher in the capital Bamako, said that soap and water had been made available in “several places” in his school.

Malian teachers also walked out of classrooms in January — before coronavirus hit — over a pay dispute.

Authorities had promised salary hikes in October 2016, which never transpired.

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