By Tiphaine Lecointe (2EA)
On September 1, 2020, French students and teachers went back to school during the COVID-19global pandemic. Education Minister Jean Michel Blanquer said in a conference that he wanted to keep the schools “as normal as possible” while avoiding another Lockdown due to the spreading of the virus. However, this return to schools is everything but “normal.” Many rules have been enforced in everyday life like some shops closing. Stronger measures have been made for schools: social distancing is required, every child or adult has to regularly use hand sanitizer, but perhaps the most important rule is that masks are required all day long, in class and out of class.
This policy also generates some secondary rules. These “smaller” rules sometimes create confusion or even riots and not everyone is in agreement with them. For example, only children above 11 years old have to wear masks. “It must be hard for children to constantly wear masks, but it is necessary to stop the propagation of the virus,” said Lucile Naton, a 2EA student at La Tour. Another student, Charlotte Viard (2EA) says that, for her, “eleven years old is too old, smaller children would also be able to wear masks,” said Charlotte Viard. Similarly, children in maternelle classes are not required to wear masks, but teachers are. Moreover, masks are really expensive (10 euros for 50 masks in supermarkets or 19 euros for 50 masks in pharmacies). “Because the masks are too expensive, it leads many people not to pay for them and reuse old ones which also leads to a higher propagation risk,” says Nathalie Depaix, a school nurse. And as we all know because so many scientists have repeated it so many times, masks are not effective after three hours.
But how do students actually feel about having to wear masks all day? “It became a ritual, I got used to it and I don’t really care, but it can sometimes be annoying. I know it is hard to breathe for other students, but I don’t have any major problems with masks.” says Lucile. This demonstrates humans’ capacity for adaptation. “I wear glasses that get foggy when I wear a mask which is annoying, but I got used to it and found solutions,” adds Charlotte. If students can manage wearing a mask for the day, everyone can adapt to the changes linked to the pandemic.
Many students also found it difficult to create contacts with new students since half of their faces are hidden by the mask. “Emotions are harder to read so communication becomes difficult,” explains Ms. Depaix. In addition to this, many students lose their sense of orientation entirely due to the masks. Ms. Depaix points out that “the masks provoke a diminution of vision and hearing and many students lost their orientation and many have come to see [her] with complaints of headaches.” But, she explains, these headaches are caused by dehydration: “When wearing a mask you need to drink more water, but very few students know this,” she says.
But do people (students and teachers) really respect these rules? Both Charlotte and Lucile admits that most of their teachers wear their mask under their noses, which is inefficient for stopping the virus propagation.
As Ms. Depaix says, “masks are the easiest and most effective ways to protect everyone and slow the virus propagation.” So if everyone wants to go back to a normal life, as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to convince and make sure everyone wears their mask properly and respects sanitary rules for their safety and for the safety of those around them.