French students face isolation, food poverty and job insecurity due to COVID-19
Ross Cullen in Paris


Student associations in France are calling on the government to set up a support fund worth nearly $2 billion to help young people. 

President Emmanuel Macron has said he will do what he can to avoid a generation of students being lost to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But from being forced to resort to online learning while remaining isolated from friends, as well as the loss of part-time jobs – the pandemic has severely affected French university students. 

"Before we had our student life but we also had a social life," student Manel Yousfi tells CGTN Europe. 

"We could go out and have fun. Now, I feel like my life is only school. My bedroom [has become] my classroom, dining room. Everything I do happens in that room."



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Sat outside the cafeteria at the University Paris-Est Creteil, in the southeast of the French capital, on one of the days that students are allowed onto campus due to coronavirus restrictions, Manel's friend Rayan Yousfi also shares his experience. 

"What is complicated is online classes. It's very hard to focus, we have a lot of distractions," says Yousfi. "Sometimes I stay in bed. I'm there in my room, I miss class and just lie in bed."


'Isolation is tough'

Sid Ahmed Bekhti, a student support organizer, tells CGTN: "It's true that what we've seen here are students who have lost their jobs, the isolation – that's been especially tough."

"We had many of these problems already before COVID-19 but the pandemic has made these issues worse."


The university food banks are offering some respite but they can only ease the current problems. /CGTN

The university food banks are offering some respite but they can only ease the current problems. /CGTN


There are some wider support systems in place to help students. 

Downstairs at the university, a food bank has been set up by the charity organization Red Cross – this is where they sort and pack food parcels for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The food packs include essentials like cereals, coffee, pasta and rice as well as fresh bread, fruit and vegetables. 

The university food banks are offering some respite but they can only ease the current problems.


Difficult economic environment

The students are also confronted with the uncertain jobs market.

Part-time work in bars and restaurants has dried up and there is a freeze in the wider jobs market, with millions of workers already on furlough. 

"We know that the economic environment is difficult," says Anil Benard-Dende, Kedge Business School's deputy director. 

"Our job is to see what we can do to support our students, our graduates, our alumni – because even for those students who graduated five or 10 years ago, the economic situation is not booming. 

"So we need to support our whole student community when it comes to employability."

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