In Marseille, dilapidated schools, overheated “thermal sieves”

More than thirty degrees on the thermometer in the classrooms, not a meter of shadow on the asphalt of the playgrounds: The early heat wave is particularly difficult to bear in these many dilapidated Marseille schools.

From Monday, a kindergarten teacher from the 4th arrondissement registered 30 ° C in the classroom. On Thursday, the thermometer had risen to 34 ° C. In his classroom as in the toddler dormitory, facing south, only curtains protect from the sun.

The class, in a school with a metal structure, is experiencing “insulation problems around the windows and on the walls”, according to the latest school council report. “In the winter, it is so cold there that we even had an extra heater with us,” the teacher remembers.

One third of Marseille’s schools are “real thermal screens”, according to City Hall’s website. The left-wing municipality, elected in July 2020, inherited more than twenty years of neglect from the previous right-wing majority, which had left primary schools.

In this school in the popular district of Chutes-Lavie, we hide a bitter memory of the former municipality, which “by mistake” had had the only tree in the yard cut down. Result: “We have no shade at all. Besides spraying the children with water when it is very hot, we have no solution”, testifies the director, who preferred to remain anonymous as he was subject to the reserve duty.

In the meantime, she would at least like the installation of shade cloths, a request that has been unanswered for several months.

In another school, the children of Cécile Baron, a member of the collective of Marseille schools, it is the parents of students who “ended up buying themselves, the paintings”, she explains: “The children felt so bad in the yard that there was vomiting ”.

– “Impossible to continue learning” –

Another parent representative, Séverine Gil, describes “children who fell on the very hot tar and were severely burned”. She is particularly concerned about the little ones, “who do not know how to cope with the heat, drink regularly for example”.

It becomes “impossible to continue learning in certain classes,” she condemns, noting a dropout rate “earlier and earlier in the year.”

“The school renovation plan is really good, for example with soil drainage projects, but it is about too few establishments and in too long a time”, regrets Mrs Gil, who asks for “emergency solutions”.

The Mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan (left), has launched a major school renovation project, “historic” in his words, to which the state has contributed 400 million euros.

According to researcher in sustainable urbanism Marie-Laure Lambert, this plan has “a very virtuous goal as it integrates the issue of school reconstruction”: “When you think about it, it’s nonsense to put children on asphalt, you have to bring children back in contact with nature ”.

This reintroduction of green in the city will also benefit the districts, she notes, as the town hall in its renovation plan plans to open the school to associations outside the teaching time “to gather the built and avoid building again”.

Problem according to the unions and the parents of the students: on the sidelines of this great work, today it would be necessary to “act urgently” at the schools not covered by the plan, or not in the short term.

Reached by AFP on Thursday, the deputy mayor in charge of schools, Pierre-Marie Ganozzi, himself teacher, assured “to equip the crèches and the most disadvantaged schools with fans and garden hoses:” Our priorities are the classes in algecos without air conditioning, where the temperature is insane “.

At the start of the school year, he announced, “we want the city council to vote on the installation of playgrounds, not against the rain, but against the sun, with retractable tarpaulin systems for schools that do not have trees”.

These increasingly frequent heat waves should also push “to think about the school calendar”, believes the principal of the Chutes-Lavie school.

On Thursday night, in front of the HLM Perrin school in the northern part of the city, mothers of students had organized a demonstration. And on Friday, their children do not go to class. “We have to give them a dolipran in the evening because they have so much headaches,” Anissa Yettou condemned as she recovered her children, who hurried to the bottle of water as she handed them.

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