Following the murder of a teacher in the town of Arras on 13 October 2023, Education International (EI) and the ETUCE have expressed their profound consternation and sent messages of solidarity to their affiliated organisations in France. This tragedy comes almost 3 years to the day after the death of Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher who was brutally murdered in front of his school in disturbingly similar circumstances.
Fifty-seven-year-old Dominique Bernard was a French teacher at the Gambetta-Carnot secondary school. On Friday 13 October, he was fatally stabbed inside the school by a radicalised former pupil. Another teacher and two support staff were also seriously injured.
This terrorist attack has sent shockwaves through the teaching profession and French society as a whole. It came as France was preparing to honour the memory of Samuel Paty, the 47-year-old victim of a terrorist attack near his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on the outskirts of Paris. Samuel Paty was murdered and beheaded on 16 October 2020 by a young man aged 18 following an online campaign against the use of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed in his class.
Gatherings have been organised across France in recent days to pay tribute to Dominique Bernard and Samuel Paty.
“I can assure you of the unwavering solidarity of Education International and education staff around the world at this time of suffering. All teachers, wherever they are in the world, identify with the educators attacked yesterday in Arras, in the very heart of an educational establishment, in front of pupils,” said EI General Secretary, David Edwards, in a letter of solidarity to all EI affiliated organisations in France.
Stressing the role of the teaching profession in the face of obscurantist ideologies, he added that “only young people who are rigorously guided along the path of knowledge and critical thinking will be able to contribute actively to building fairer, more democratic societies, and to meeting all challenges.”
Susan Flocken, the Director of ETUCE – EI’s regional organisation in Europe, also sent a message of support, saying: “We stand in solidarity with all ETUCE affiliated organisations in France as we remember the deceased teacher and offer our support to all those affected by this senseless act of violence.”
Following the killing of Samuel Paty, the EI Executive Board adopted a resolution on the role of education in fostering critical thinking and freedom of speech and promoting democracy.
More than ever, the teaching profession is the light that illuminates the darkness.