On Wednesday, January 20, thousands of university students marched in major cities of France including Paris, Lille, Bordeaux and Rennes. They were demanding concrete action from the government towards helping distressed students who are facing difficulties due to COVID-19 restrictions. In Paris, protesters marched to the ministry of education with a banner reading ‘We Will Not Be the Sacrificed Generation’. The call for the mobilization was given by several students’ unions, including the Union of Communist Students (UEC), the National Union of Students of France (UNEF) and Students Solidarity, and youth groups like the Young Communist Movement of France (MJCF), Young Rebels and Young Ecologists, among others. The protesting students demanded the opening of universities with safer conditions and financial assistance for students.
In a bid to woo the agitating students, French president Emmanuel Macron organized a meeting with students in the University of Paris-Saclay on January 21. In the meeting, Macron said, “a return to normal is not possible in the second semester of the academic year and that we will have to live with the health constraints until the summer.” He also said that he wants young people to be able to go to university one day a week and promised to set up two meals a day at 1 euro at the university restaurants for all students.
University students across France are confined to online classes and have been deprived of their scholarships and income from part time jobs. They are facing serious financial, academic and psychological difficulties.
On Wednesday, UNEF president Melanie Luce told the media, “insecurity is extreme and it touches us now. We need an answer now, not in six months, not in five years as they are always promising to us.”
Regarding the mobilization, UEC national secretary Anais Fley stated in Clarte, “the authorities must stop ignoring the problems faced by the students and treat it with seriousness and responsibility. We can no longer tolerate young people dropping out or committing suicide for lack of future prospects in their studies. As long as students are forced to study at a distance, the government must put in place support mechanisms coordinated by the state, regions, departments and municipalities, so that each student who needs help can benefit from assistance.” Since the beginning of the lockdown, UEC has been demanding an income for students financed by social security.
A larger nation-wide mobilization of students and teachers has been organized on January 26. Students will also join the nationwide general strike by the trade unions on February 4.