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Streets were stormed by students and political campaigners on Wednesday who condemned the closure of universities imposed by Emmanuel Macron’s coronavirus rules. The death of a student at the Paris University of Le Sorbonne fuelled the protests against the French President in a bid to draw attention on the rising mental health problems many say they are suffering.
Members of La Cocarde Etudiante, a movement of non-conformist students, raged against Macron’s inability to listen to students’ demands.
Tweeting from the movement’s official Twitter account, they said: “At Jussieu University and in the streets of Paris, we raised the alarm of thousands of students: Open our universities!
“Faced with a government that hears nothing, we will not let go, this is just the beginning #ghoststudents.”
The tweet included a video in which one of the representatives delivers a strongly-worded message to the French President.
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He said: “We learned this Friday that a medicine student at the Sorbonne has taken her own life.
“While the motivations may be diverse, this context of deep youthful stress cannot last any longer if we want to avoid more tragedies. Following an initial lockdown that shut down the university and the rest of the country, we were happy to regain access to the campus.
“On September 30, Minister Frédérique Vidal promised there would be no closure of universities. A month later, we were told of a new closure.
“The return of online lessons, lockdown, curfew. It all sounds like betrayal. For almost a year now, the daily lives of students have boiled down to screen courses inside rooms of 9 square metres.
“Everything that makes the university and youth community special is now banned or forbidden, with serious consequences of dropout, distress, neurosis, loneliness, unemployment. And that goes as far as suicide and attempted suicide.
“We ask for the immediate reopening of all higher education institutions for the entire second semester. This is the future of a whole generation. Let’s save our year, let’s open our universities!”
Others joined the cause calling on the French Government to take responsibility.
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Left-wing party Le France Insoumise tweeted: “Minute of silence at the foot of the Pantheon in memory of the students who committed suicide. #ghoststudents”
The Socialist Party also joined the protest, writing: “The Socialists were present today to support the students who denounce the precariousness they face and the deplorable study conditions in this time of health crisis #ghoststudents.”
Presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon said: “Students were now demonstrating in the streets because of the precariousness they are going through with repeated lockdowns and curfews. We must act. It’s urgent! #ghoststudent.”
Whilst the former mayor of Le Bourget Yannick Hoppe added: “Because they must not be a sacrificed generation and their distress must be taken more into account by the Government, we are alongside the young French who are demonstrating for their future and to make their voice heard!”
Students in France have been unable to attend lectures for several months and many are still living in cramped accommodations away from home.
Since last Saturday, all of France is under a curfew that starts at 6pm every evening, adding to the pressure felt by young people across the country.
In the last two weeks alone, two undergraduates in Lyon have tried to take their lives.
Heïdi Soupault, a political science student from Strasbourg, decided to raise the issue more directly writing a letter to Macron.
She wrote: “I’m 19 years old and I feel like I’m dead. I no longer have dreams. If we have no hope or prospects for the future at 19, what do we have left?”
President Macron, however, urged Ms Soupault and students in a similar position to persevere.
“It’s hard to be 20 years old in 2020,” he wrote in his response, reviving a line from a speech he made last October. “Continue to hold out… We know what we owe you. I’m asking you for one more effort.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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