The tragic death of a French student who immolated himself took place in order to raise awareness of the student poverty in 2019. It did draw the Media’s attention but not the French government’s. Here we are now, a year of Covid-19 crisis left and the government has poorly helped the students.
Before the Covid-19 crisis, there was an estimation of 20% of students living beneath the poverty line, so 2.7 millions of students in the country. Since the Global Pandemic, the figures have skyrocketed. A survey was carried out and the results are outrageous : 74% of student affirm having financial issues.
In fact, the situation for workers have been difficult but reviewed some time ago, while the poor students are completely forgotten. In France, the scholar system is very different compared to Ireland. The tuition fees are either of some hundreds a year, or free if you are eligible to a student grant, depending on your parents’ wage and strict social criteria.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a great support on paper, but in order to have a grant, which is going from €100 to €700 per month, your parents must respect some criteria, depending on salaries and number of children. Usually, if your parents are still happy and in love and you do not have any siblings, you are not eligible. You probably understand now, it is no small challenge to get a student grant in France.
You’d tell me at least the tuition fees are free, or almost free. There is also some financial issues for the accommodation but when you lost your job, your parents also have financial issues due to the crisis and you are this close to give up your studies because you can no longer afford anything, not only your financial situation but also your mental health are getting complicated to handle.
Most of them used to have a student job before the Coronavirus crisis, which are mostly amongst fast-food, restaurant, bar, or shop. These students have then lost their job since all of these activities have been closed for such a long time now. As a result, they do not have enough money to pay their food, some of them even skip meals to save money.
It has only been a couple of month when the government has taken a decision to “help” them. For a month, we could have seen some Ministers talking about “mental support”, “community support” like they could not do more than that. They finally decided to guarantee at least a day per week of classes in presence to end the situation of loneliness. They also set up a €1 meal instead of €3.25 in the university cafeteria called “CROUS”.
That is unfortunately all.
Thankfully, charities who are called “united groceries” have been giving some food for €1 only since the beginning of the lockdown, and some companies have taken example and are now selling some food for students in need, going until 50% of discount compared to the average supermarket.
Thank God charities exist to replace what the government should do. Students are the future, the nation depends heavily on these highly educated people to lead, to invent, and to invest in the country. They are not simply a problem that must be dealt with and pushed aside.