Italian girls set up desks and chairs outside schools to protest closures

A lone protest by an Italian girl against the closure of her school because of coronavirus restrictions is spreading around the country.

For the last few days, Anita Iacovelli has set up a small blue desk, a pink metal chair and her laptop outside the school she used to attend in Turin. 

Sometimes she has to wear a hat and gloves, as northern Italy edges towards winter temperatures.

Wearing a mask and following her classes online, she called for schools to reopen, saying there was little evidence that closing them down aided the battle against Covid-19.

Italy’s high schools have been closed since earlier this month, while pupils in the second and third year of middle school in high-risk regions are also back to distance learning at home.

Anita’s school closed down in the spring when Italy was hit by the first wave of the virus and she says she and her classmates have had enough of remote learning.

Anita Iacovelli, left, and her friend Lisa Rogliatti, in front of the Italo Calvino school in Turin 

Credit: AFP

Similar protests have spread to other cities across the country, with other children setting up foldable chairs and tables outside their shuttered schools.

"I just want to go back to school," Iacovelli said. "I had no idea I would end up being famous and being interviewed on TV for this."

She has now been joined in her protest outside the Italo Calvino school in Turin by a friend, Lisa Rogliatti, also 12.

"We’re going to keep going even if it snows," she told La Repubblica newspaper on Wednesday. She said that although she was shy, she was also "stubborn".

Her hero is Harry Potter – she wishes she had a magic wand so she could reopen the gates of her school.

Turin is part of the northern Piedmont region, which since early this month has been designated a high-risk red zone. Italy’s 20 regions are designated either red, orange or yellow for their level of contagion risk.

Similar protests have sprung up in Florence and other Italian cities, prompting Lucia Azzolina, the education minister, to write an open letter saying she understood the pupils’ frustration.

The minister said that had she been a schoolchild, she would probably be protesting as well. The government would do all it could to reopen schools soon, she said. 

Italy is firmly in the grip of the second wave of the pandemic. On Tuesday, the country recorded 32,000 new cases, up from 27,000 on Monday. There were another 731 deaths, compared with 504 on Monday.

More than 33,000 people are being treated in hospital.

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