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In France, students are hit hard by the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis. For Africans who have come to continue their studies, financial difficulties are compounded by administrative constraints, which sometimes force them to reorient themselves or to abandon their studies. Testimonials.
“Diary Sow’s disappearance did not surprise me”, confides Aïssa *, a Senegalese student in Paris. “Lately, I’ve been thinking about giving up everything too…”. The embodiment of excellence and academic success in his country, Diary Sow, a student in preparatory class at the prestigious Parisian high school Louis-le-Grand, was the pride of Senegal, shaken since his death on January 4.
“When your parents are so far away, you live with the pressure to succeed. My family cannot afford to pay for my studies and at the moment it’s particularly difficult,” continues Aïssa, a brilliant master’s student in Finance at the Sorbonne. The young woman was a student in engineering school last year in Marseille, but she had to change courses urgently, because she was no longer able to pay her tuition fees in the private sector. “Because of the Covid-19 and with the confinement, I lost my student job. I found a job as an order picker in a supermarket. It was not enough to cover my expenses. The school, c ‘was too much. I did not manage to finish the semester because morally I was not doing well at all. ” At the end of the year, the young woman therefore decides to move to Paris to make a new start. But she finds herself once again in difficulty finding accommodation in the capital: “I was lodged by a friend of a friend who made me sleep on the floor and expected me to do the cooking and cleaning in return. Another young man saw my call for solidarity on Facebook and offered to host me. But he very quickly asked me for a physical consideration. I fled at full speed. “
Thanks to the student associations, and the help of the university social worker, Aïssa is urgently relocated to a social residence. She has regained calm, “even though it’s very hard to spend her days studying in 20 square meters,” she says. The student also got a job as a tutor for disabled students (AESH) in a nursery school. However, his situation remains fragile: “I submitted a file to request housing assistance from the CAF [caisse d’allocation familiale, NDLR] because with my job, I can barely pay my rent. If CAF doesn’t pay me the allowance at the end of the month, I won’t have enough to eat. “
Fear of a wave of suicides
According to UNEF, the health crisis has installed “extreme precariousness” among students in France. The student association warns about their mental health, based on a survey by Nightline, a crisis line for students, which reveals that 22% of them have thoughts of suicide. A week ago, a student from Lyon tried to wind down, a few days after a similar act, giving rise to fears of a wave of suicide in the face of psychological distress.
👂Do you know @NightlineParis, a free and confidential help line for students?
📲Students trained in active listening will answer you without judgment.
⌚Contact them by phone or chat from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. 👉 https://t.co/h83pjlc2uk pic.twitter.com/RZLXclTHiw
– University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (@ SorbonneParis1) September 23, 2020
The UNEF is also asking for the integration of foreign students into the National Education social grant system, to which they are currently not entitled, this aid being reserved for students whose parents have resided on French soil for more than two years. years.
On the other hand, foreign students can apply for emergency aid of a maximum of 500 euros paid by the Regional Center for University and School Works (Crous) [numéro vert pour demander ces aides : 0 806 000 278]. Encouraged by a professor, Syra, a Senegalese student, requested it at the end of April. The Ministry of Higher Education having simplified access to this device to help students in difficulty during the Covid-19 crisis, she had a positive response in two weeks, which allowed her to pay narrowly his rent in a student residence.
Teachers “more easily reachable”
After the first confinement, the political science student at the University of Paris 8 moved in as a couple. “For two, it’s much easier for daily expenses,” she says. She even finds advantages in distance learning: “The teachers have become accustomed to them. They are more available and easily reachable. And I dare to ask my questions more”.
However, for several weeks, many young people have expressed their weariness at the lack of face-to-face lessons and the hash word “# students ghosts” has flourished on social networks to express this unease. The government also expressed its “concern” at the “deep feeling of isolation” of the students. Also, on January 14, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that first-year university students could now resume face-to-face tutorials in half-groups from January 25. This measure will then extend, “if the health situation allows it, to students of other levels,” added the head of government, without giving a date.
Difficulty finding work-study jobs and internships
For work-study students, the health situation poses another problem: many of them cannot find a job or an internship, which is necessary for their diploma to be validated. This is the case of Prisca, a Congolese student in Paris. “I’ve been looking for 8 months in vain,” laments the young woman in management MBA. “I am told that ‘despite all my qualities, the situation does not allow you to hire,” continues Prisca, discouraged. In the meantime, she keeps babysitting between classes and looking for internships. “I disconnect with the news so as not to stress too much. I put on music instead of the television because morale is not good at all,” she says. In her student residence, which is almost empty, “everyone stays in their own corner”, so Prisca spends her weekends with friends and works her lessons together with the girlfriends “to recharge her batteries”.
Khadim Dieye, president of the Association of Senegalese Students in France (AESF), admits that for some foreign students, the health situation has turned into a nightmare. “The Covid-19 created administrative nodes. In Senegal, the Bac took place later than expected. Some Senegalese students were unable to register on time in French universities. Others complained about the delay in the allocation of their student visas. Certain French faculties and schools refused to register them. ” For these students without a university, it will be impossible to benefit from social security, and very complicated to renew their visa. They now hope to be able to hang up the wagon by integrating staggered training at any cost.
* The first name has been changed.