Struggling French Students Protest University Closures

PARIS: A university student carries a placard reading “we’re not happy” during a protest for the resumption of classes | AFP

PARIS: French university students protested on Wednesday on Paris Left Bank to demand to be allowed back to class, and to call attention to suicides and financial troubles among students cut off from friends, professors and job opportunities amid the pandemic.

Carrying a banner reading We Will Not Be the Sacrificed Generation, hundreds of students gathered to march on the Education Ministry, seeking government help for those struggling. Other student protests were planned on Wednesday elsewhere in France.

The government ordered all universities closed in October to stem resurgent virus infections, after a similar closure in the spring set many students back academically and socially.

Students have increasingly been sharing their woes on social networks under such hashtags as #suicideetudiant and #etudiantphantomes, or ghost students.

Heidi Soupault, a 19-year-old student in Strasbourg, wrote an open letter to President Emmanuel Macron last week saying she and her peers have no more dreams and have the impression of being dead.

While France tightened its curfew last week as virus hospitalizations grow again, Prime Minister Jean Castex made a gesture towards college students, allowing first-year students to start returning to partial classes as of next week. The government acknowledged that lockdown-related mental health problems among young people are also a public health concern.

But the protesting students say the measures don’t go far enough to address their woes. France has among the worlds highest numbers of virus infections and deaths.

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