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CHILDREN

Hartz IV welfare benefits considered too low

A solid majority of Germans believe welfare benefits are too low in their country, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

Hartz IV welfare benefits considered too low
Photo: DPA

A poll by weekly magazine Stern found 61 percent considered the German dole known as Hartz IV too meagre at €359 a month per person. Only 30 percent said the amount was appropriate, and four percent considered it too high.

People living on Hartz IV also have their rent and other expenses covered.

Almost three quarters (73 percent) of those surveyed said the needs of children on welfare were equal to or higher than those of an adult. The German Constitutional Court is expected to decide next week whether benefits for children should continue to be scaled according to their age, as is the current practice.

An overwhelming 90 percent of poll participants said Hartz IV should also cover costs such as school field trips for children. Another 74 percent said welfare should pay for sports equipment and club fees. Seventy percent said it should include a monthly visit to the cinema, zoo or museum. But only 49 percent said kids on the dole should have access to music instruments and lessons.

Stern surveyed 1,000 people between January 5-7 throughout Germany.

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EDUCATION

Schools around Germany reopen as Covid numbers sink

As coronavirus figures continue to fall around Germany, several states are again opening schools in full force. Here’s where - and when - in-person classes are resuming again.

Schools around Germany reopen as Covid numbers sink
Elementary shcool pupils in Hanover returned to the classroom on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

On Monday, the countrywide 7-day incidence dropped to 35.1 per 100,000 residents, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The RKI reported 1,978 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 2,682 a week before. 

In light of the lower numbers, many states have decided to end distance learning and alternating classes, and to return to regular classroom operations.

This marks the first time in several months – in some cases since November – that primary and secondary pupils have been able to return to full instruction.

However, mandatory face masks and coronavirus tests at least twice a week still apply to all pupils.

Where and when are schools reopening?

Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia is reopening schools with face-to-face instruction across the board on Monday.

Lower Saxony, Saarland and Hamburg are also returning to normal operation across class levels in most state regions. 

In Brandenburg, this initially applies only to elementary schools. The only exception is the city of Brandenburg/Havel, where the numbers are still considered to be too high. In a week’s time, the secondary schools are to follow suit. 

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the state with the lowest 7-day incidence nationwide (14.9 as of Monday), students began returning to classes on Thursday. 

Berlin, on the other hand, plans to stick with the alternating classes – where different groups of students attend on different days – until the summer vacations, which begin June 24th.

The capital’s mayor Michael Müller (SPD) recently pointed out that the incidence among students in the capital was higher than the average. 

Rhineland-Palatinate is also taking a cautious approach. Following the end of school holidays in a week, pupils will have two more weeks of rotating classes before everyone returns for face-to-face instruction.

From June 7th in Bavaria, if the 7-day incidence remains stable below 50, face-to-face teaching is planned everywhere. Previously this was only the case at elementary schools and some special schools. 

In Baden-Württemberg, elementary schools are to return to face-to-face instruction if the 7-day incidences remain stable between 50 and 100. 

From June 11th, this is also to apply to all students in grade five and above who are currently still in alternating instruction.

What’s the reaction?

Not everyone is happy with the way schools are reopening. On Monday the Federal Parents’ Council criticised the different approaches taken by the states. 

“It’s like it has been since the outbreak of the pandemic: each state does what it wants,” complained chairwoman Sabrina Wetzel in a statement. “We demand a uniform line on openings as well.”

For parents, the different regulations from state to state are difficult to understand, she said, adding that “it’s also unfair to the children”.

READ ALSO: German teachers call for uniform Covid rules in schools nationwide

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