Teachers must form rank-and-file committees to fight Australia’s dangerous school reopenings | #students | #parents

The following remarks were delivered by Sue Phillips, national convenor of the Committee for Public Education (CFPE), at a Socialist Equality Party (Australia) public meeting on Sunday, October 31.

The meeting, which can be viewed in full here, outlined the relationship between anti-democratic electoral laws, aimed at deregistering “minor” parties, the homicidal and pro-business pandemic policies of the ruling elite and the deepening crisis of the capitalist system. Speakers explained that the electoral measures are an attempt to prevent mounting social opposition from finding political expression, and outlined the SEP’s campaign to defeat them

The CFPE is holding an online meeting for educators, parents, students and workers on Saturday, November 13 at 4pm (AEDT). To participate in the event, entitled “Oppose the dangerous opening of schools in Australia! Form rank-and-file action safety committees!” register here.

Sue Phillips

On October 5, less than four weeks ago, the Committee for Public Education published a statement titled “Oppose the dangerous reopening of schools in Australia! Form rank-and-file action safety committees!”

On the same day we circulated a video of educators speaking out against the Victorian Labor and the New South Wales (NSW) Liberal-National governments’ pro-business agendas of “living with the virus,” which included the opening of schools and recklessly putting the lives of students, educators, parents and the community at serious risk.

Everything we warned about has been vindicated with surging infections in primary, secondary, specialist schools and childcare centres. In less than a month, more than 300 schools have been closed in Victoria and more than 150 in NSW. In these two states almost 500 schools have closed, and we can say without doubt these figures are an underestimation.

This data is not published by the government, the media, the Australian Education Union or the New South Wales Teachers Federation, which are complicit in this dangerous experiment. All of them are suppressing information about how widespread the infections are, fearing growing parent and teacher opposition.

CFPE members have been diligently tracking the closures, collating hard-to-access public health data, social media and information from parents and teachers. It was only after we began exposing the alarming numbers on social media, and thousands of parents and teachers began accessing and spreading the data, that the Age, the Guardian and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation suddenly began highlighting some of the closures.

The refusal of public authorities to publish comprehensive accounts of COVID-related school closures is just one expression of the extraordinary censorship that has accompanied the reopening drive. Basic public health data, including the number of infected teachers and school workers and the source of those infections, is being kept secret.

Some schools have had multiple infections and closed several times in a month but now, under new guidelines, when schools have infections, they don’t have to close, only single classes isolate. What is being implemented in the schools is a policy determined by the corporate and financial elite, best described as “let it rip.”

Even during Term 3, when schools in Sydney and Melbourne were largely working online with only small numbers of children onsite, over 200 schools closed in NSW and nearly 100 in Victoria. Despite these appalling statistics and in defiance of scientific knowledge and bitter international experience, governments have made clear that nothing is to stand in the way.

In mid-September, Daniel Andrews, using language employed by Morrison, and Berejiklian declared: “We cannot permanently suppress this virus… We are opening up, no doubt about that, there will be no turning back. We cannot have a perpetual suppression of this virus. There will be pain, it will be challenging.”

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