Germany’s education minister has warned that school classes could be cancelled if Russia cuts gas supplies to the country later this month.
Bettina Stark-Watzinger told German media on Thursday night that, if supplies are stopped or curbed, schools should be given priority access in order to avoid further disruption to pupils after the Covid pandemic.
“During the pandemic, I campaigned to count educational institutions as critical infrastructure,” Ms Stark-Watzinger told the Rheinische Post. “Even now, special attention should be paid to them so that there are as few teaching restrictions or even cancellations as possible.”
Schools and kindergartens were closed for long periods during the pandemic, sparking feats over the long-term impact of the forced switch to distance learning.
With the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline set for maintenance from Monday, necessitating a stop in supply, German politicians are increasingly concerned that Russia will not turn the gas back on when the work is completed.
Markus Soder, the Bavarian premier, has warned of “gas triage” while Jorg Steinbach, the economics minister for the state of Brandenburg, said it was “almost certain” that Vladimir Putin would cut supply after the maintenance is complete.
High prices have already led to gas rationing in several areas, with housing associations – including Germany’s largest, Vonovia, which oversees 350,000 apartments housing more than one million people – turning down heating systems and reducing the flow of hot water.
GEW, the German education union, said schools were doing their best to stay energy efficient but were struggling because of a lack of funding and poor infrastructure.