The Partido Popular’s Biel Company has discovered some sound bites for describing Francina & Co.’s viral management. One says sound bites; these are more sound words. “Marketing campaign”; “decorative advertising”. When not proudly displaying his new-found business terminology, Biel has fallen back on a local politician’s criticism stock-in-trade - “improvisation”. Francina has been improvising and so have others members of the cabinet, the education minister Martí March in particular.
Martí hasn’t had to deal with an exams grades cock-up of Williamsonian proportions, but the poor chap has been prevented from enjoying a summer’s relaxation under a fierce Majorcan sun because of the inconvenience of attempting to sort out the “vuelta al cole”, an annual ritual that has perhaps acquired the mystique which it has on account of the fact that so many months intervene during which children are not at “cole”, i.e. school.
The new abnormal means that the vuelta cannot be anything other than abnormal. Parents, in addition to splashing out on new backpacks, books, smart haircuts, and the other paraphernalia associated with the start of the school year, have this year needed to buy in stocks of children’s Covid survival packs. These parents will also have to contend with the fact that the vuelta will be in dribs and drabs and, depending on age, part-time. The return to school will, in certain instances, not be a return. Or rather it will be, but staggered.
The education minister concluded last week that he would have to miss out Plan A and go straight to Plan B. The unions, naturally enough but also with some justification, were pointing out that the greatly reduced class sizes might not benefit from there being sufficient numbers of teachers. But Plan B it was, it is and it will be. While there were murmurs of strike action by teaching unions, the national union of students called for its own strike. Is this supposed to apply to primary schoolchildren as well as to stroppy teenagers? If so, then one might have expected “radicalisation” to have been aired.
However, and unlike the accusations of Catalan indoctrination and radicalisation in the classrooms, this was all about the teaching process and safety anxieties. We don’t need no education? No, this wasn’t a nod in the direction of the Pink Floyd, this was about getting the kids into the classrooms and keeping everyone safe.
Regional education ministers such as Martí have a good deal of devolved responsibilities, but they still have to be conscious of commands, recommendations and announcements regarding legal reports into school absenteeism emanating from Madrid. Isabel Celaá, the education minister, wasn’t alone in making Martí’s life that little bit more complicated. There was also our good friend the health minister, Salvador Illa.
With one eye no doubt on the health benefits of physical education, Salvador was dealing a further blow to the beleaguered bus and coach transport sector. Where possible, children should go to school on foot or on bike, he stated. What implications will this have for the vuelta? Will local police forces need to be controlling lengthy crocodiles of safely distancing children marching towards their schools as well as the school run? Or had Salvador intimated that the school run should also be abandoned?
The vuelta al cole most certainly will not be normal.
The apparition of Francina
From time to time, the president has been emerging from the family summer retreat on the bay of Pollensa in order to be sighted with the royals on walkabout and to declare new measures. Otherwise, the opposition have been alarmed at her not having insisted that she must prise deputies away from the beaches so that she can give explanations about the government’s viral management. She has needed to be “dragged” into parliament, noted a Partido Popular veteran, Nuria Riera.
Those deputies who have been content to avoid any possible beach overcrowding and have been diligently acting as parliament’s summer recess permanent deputation finally got round to setting a date for Francina to appear before an extraordinary session of parliament. And what a date they chose.
The appearance will be more like an apparition. Deputies will be in awe, for Francina will descend from the Pollensa bay heaven on the day when the birth of the Virgin Mary is celebrated.
And what will deputies and we learn when Francina makes her saintly presence known? Very little, one imagines. Biel Company will give his “marketing campaign” another airing. The rest of the opposition will cry “improvisation”. Francina will highlight the good management of the health service, the determined efforts of the so-called social dialogue table, and appeal for consensus in reactivating the economy.
The apparition can be predicted.