The requirement for school without a mask: criticism from Education Minister Ton

Status: 04/20/2022 7:00 PM

Initially, schoolchildren and teachers in Lower Saxony no longer had to wear a mask. A conversation with the Minister of Education of Lower Saxony Grant Hendrik Ton.

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In Lower Saxony, the first day of school after the Easter holidays had a special meaning. Because it was the first day students and teachers no longer had to wear a mask over their mouth and nose – the nationwide Infection Protection Act, amended in mid-March, mandates it that way. A regulation that Lower Saxony Education Minister Grant Hendrik Tone was not happy with, because in the run-up to the first day of school he voluntarily asked to wear a mask.

Mr. Ton, have I interpreted your feelings correctly?

Grant Hendrik Ton: They interpreted it correctly. It’s also no secret that we would have liked more options. A mask will be a very useful tool especially in the time after the holidays.

They were out in Oldenburg all day. How is the reaction in schools?

Tons: The schools, teachers and all the staff really did it with great routine and welcomed the students. Wherever I looked, I saw schoolchildren who went back to school with a passion for school. These are really good and very important signals.

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With the new regulation, schools are being handed responsibility, so to speak. Because like me before A school principal from Winsen said on the phoneYou no longer have any way to intervene if necessary. How do you see that?

Tons: I can understand that, because countries feel the same way. I do not have the opportunity to order it either – not even in cases where, for example, the infection is increasing. I would have liked there to be more clear regulation there, also for the benefit of the schools. On the other hand, I also had a lot of comments today that it was handled with great responsibility. Especially when you’re moving – in hallways and walkways – a mask has been put in there, too. This is also a good sign.

Winsen’s principal told me that everyone in his school voluntarily wore a mask. Would you perhaps underestimate the psychological reinforcement of voluntarism, which is that one likes to willingly wear a mask to protect oneself and others, but reluctantly under duress?

Tons: I in no way underestimate the voluntary nature of this. We would advise not to underestimate the cause and solidarity of the younger generation. It is very clear to them what their contribution could be. I think they have been in solidarity with the older generation for a long time. I wish this was the case in all social classes. Then we would have made this epidemic much smaller.

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Why do universities in Lower Saxony still have to wear masks – but not in schools?

Tons: I can only tell you that I need a federal legal basis matching the mask requirements in schools. I don’t have those. Therefore, it cannot be requested either, because it was agreed under the Federal Law for the Protection of Infections not to provide for the possibility of exceptions for schools. This is the basis I have to work with, because I can see that the start went well with the voluntary nature. I am so thankful for a lot of fit, for a lot of reasons that were there and I think we got off to a good start after the holidays. I think we should not lose sight of the goal: of course we want to go back to normal life. This also means a step-by-step goodbye to masks.

How flexible are you, as the responsible minister, in dealing with the increasing number of infections due to current regulations?

Tons: If I want to enforce a mask requirement, there has to be a corresponding legal basis, and it can only be found in federal law for protection against infection. As long as this is not provided there, there can be no reaction. I think that for autumn and winter we will also talk about other mechanisms again. But time will tell. The first thing to do now is to invest all your energy in organizing as much normalcy as possible and also as much fun and enjoyment as possible for all involved. Even two years after the outbreak of the epidemic, we must not forget that the goal of schools that impart knowledge and education is paramount. But this should also be fun. You have to fight for it now.

led conversation Eva Schram.

This topic is in the program:

Culture NDR | The magazine | 04/20/2022 | 4:45 pm

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