Covid-19: Italy’s schools could face teacher shortage

Teaching unions raise fears that schools in Italy will be understaffed.

Italian schools face being understaffed when the academic year begins across Italy on 14 September, trade unions representing teachers have claimed.

Many teachers and teaching assistants in Italy have already filed medical certificates amid covid-19 concerns, with issues set to "explode" by 14 September, unions told Italian news agency ANSA.

Teaching unions cite a climate of "fear" due to the "uncertainty of communications" from the government, particularly in relation to so-called "fragile workers" - who suffer from chronic illness or medical conditions - reports ANSA.

These concerns are heightened by the fact that the average age of Italy's teachers is among the highest in Europe, with 40-45 per cent aged over 55, including 171,000 teachers aged over 62.

Admitting that "it will be a tough year," education minister Lucia Azzolina stated recently that Italy has "a great historic responsibility," assuring teachers that the country "will have the resources from Europe with which to build the school of tomorrow."

Italy's schools reopened on 1 September for catch-up lessons after a nationwide closure of six months due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Students will not be required to wear masks at their desks, so long as they maintain interpersonal distance of one metre, however masks are obligatory for all children over the age of six when they move around the school building, except for gym class, eating in canteens and answering a teacher.

School buses and public transport carrying students must operate at a maximum of 80 per cent capacity, with additional seats and a reduction of standing places.

Although the official school opening date is 14 September, several Italian regions will reopen their schools on different dates: in the northern Alto Adige region schools are set to open on 7 September, in Sardinia they reopen on 22 September, and in the southern region of Puglia the reopening date is 24 September.