A year after Samuel Paty's murder, teachers in France give their verdict on the current classroom mood

By Prisca Borrel

On October 16th 2020 history and geography teacher Samuel Paty was murdered near his school in the north-west suburbs of Paris where he had previously shown pupils caricatures of Muhammad as part of a lesson. A year later, Mediapart visited a similar-sized community at Alès in southern France to speak to teachers there about life in the classroom following a brutal killing that shocked the nation. They told Mediapart about their hopes, their fears and their complicated relations with pupils who they say are being drip fed with 'fake news'. Some also expressed their anger about an education system they consider to be too passive in the face of the current situation. Prisca Borrel reports.

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“Samuel Paty is me, or rather it could have been me. That's the first thing I said to myself,” recalled a history and geography teacher at Jean-Baptiste-Dumas secondary school in the southern town of Alès. It was a year ago, on October 16th 2020, that Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher, was the victim of a gruesome act of terrorism in the streets of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in the north-west suburbs of Paris near the school where he had shown pupils caricatures of Muhammad as part of a lesson. The teacher in Alès will never forget the tragedy. “I learnt about the news when I got home from school after an hour's drive … I was completely devastated. And I cried.”