Between health and safety vigilance, 12 million French students are returning to their classes

The Prime Minister, Jean Castex, and the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, during the tribute to Samuel Paty, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, on November 2, 2020. Thomas Coex / REUTERS

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4 min

After two weeks of vacation, 12 million students in France, including those in primary schools who must now be masked, made this Monday, November 2 a very special return to school, punctuated by a tribute to the murdered teacher Samuel Paty.


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French Prime Minister Jean Castex paid tribute to Samuel Paty in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Paris region), the city where he taught, by observing a minute of silence with the pupils of a CM2 class.

History professor Samuel Paty was beheaded on October 16, the day before the holidays, during a jihadist attack for showing caricatures of Muhammad in progress.

A minute of silence was organized in all classes in France

in his memory

at 11 a.m. local (10 a.m. UT).

Accompanied by the French Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer, the Prime Minister arrived in the morning at the college in Bois d'Aulne, where the teacher worked.

They interacted with the educational community.

Jean Castex insisted on the necessary collective reconstruction and the central role of teachers in the school of the Republic.

Here, Samuel Paty taught every child of the Republic to become a free citizen.

For him, for our country, we will continue.

It is our honor and our duty.

  Jean Castex (@JeanCASTEX) November 2, 2020

At the Rodin school complex, in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, the tribute ended at 11:30 am.

All the students and teachers first met in the courtyard, says our special



Lucie Bouteloup


The principal and a student read Jean Jaurès' letter to teachers.

A reading that also took place in all the other schools in France.

Then teachers and students respected the minute's silence, before singing

La Marseillaise in



A rather moving moment, in particular for Inès and for Ange, students of Terminale who both confided "to 

have had tears in the eyes


Discussions around the drama

Previously, the teachers had been able to meet their students in class for about half an hour, to discuss or provoke reflection around this terrible tragedy.

Educational workshops whose teachers wished to preserve their privacy.

But a French teacher confided to RFI that he had chosen to offer his students the writing of an assignment on the table, so that everyone feels free to say what he thinks, without worrying about the gaze of the other.

A music teacher explained, for her part, that she preferred to immediately open a debate with her 3rd year class so that the students wondered about what they would have done instead of the college students who accepted money from the part of the terrorist against information on Samuel Paty.

According to the principal, the emotion was very strong in her teaching team, and everyone expressed their need for discussion and to come together, like a family after a tragedy, to face this terrible event.

After the tribute, lessons have resumed according to everyone's usual schedule at the Rodin school, but the teachers must meet again around 5 p.m. to discuss this very special start-up again.

Under the threat of Covid-19

The return to school is also special because

of the health context


Unlike spring, schools, colleges and high schools remain open in France during the second phase of containment, intended to curb the "second wave" of coronavirus contamination in the country, where some 46,290 new cases were recorded on Sunday, or approximately 10,000 more than the day before.

However, establishments are subject to a reinforced health protocol, which in particular requires the wearing of a mask from the age of six (preparatory course), whereas, until the All Saints holidays, it was only compulsory from the age of 11. (middle School).


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