Twenty pupils have lost a parent to Covid-19 in a single school on the outskirts of Paris, underscoring the health emergency in the French capital’s neglected suburbs and piling pressure on a government that has taken pride in keeping schools open at all cost.
<p>Basking in the unseasonal heatwave that has suddenly swept France, Fatimata is untroubled by the television cameras and satellite dishes stationed outside her high school in Drancy, a northeastern suburb of Paris.
In fact it’s pretty “stylé” (cool), says the 15-year-old pupil, leaning against the iron and concrete perimeter fence of the Lycée Eugène Delacroix.
The day is drawing to a close and yet Fatimata and her friend Basmala have spent a mere two hours in class. Under different circumstances, the girls might have relished the free time. But right now it is cause for alarm.
“More and more teachers call in sick and are not being replaced,” says Fatimata. “We’re already weeks behind the programme and it’s only getting worse.”
The school fence may be holding the cameras at bay, but Delacroix is already besieged from within. In recent weeks, the coronavirus has spread like wildfire through the school’s narrow corridors and unvented classrooms, infecting staff, pupils and their parents.