Society / France
Young French students: Master in depression
Sarah Ben Ammar - 08/05/2008
“I feel lost and don’t know what to do with my life” cries out Emma, aged 22. “I followed an NHC on client negotiation and relations and now I just don’t like trade anymore” says the young girl. “I wasted a year doing nothing, with no ambitions. There are some fields I’m interested in but all the schools I wanted to follow are too expensive…” Every year, several students like Emma become frustrated with the French education system. The result: 60% of them flunk in the first year. Still treated like children during their secondary schooling, many of them lose ground after they graduate from high school, once they are suddenly left to themselves and disorientated by a system which is based on selection criteria they find inappropriate. “The counselling students receive in high school is worthless! Youngsters do not perceive school as a place for learning but as a social ranking that will follow them for the rest of their lives, because in France there is a veritable cult of diplomas” summarises Olivier Galland, a CNRS’ researcher ( National Centre for Scientific Research ). Then he adds, “Contrary to popular belief, young French girls still leave their parents’ home quite early, but in France, students don’t benefit from any effective social protection as in Northern European countries, nor of the family’s protection of the South. “
This generation is getting poorer
That is why for these girls choosing university can often turn into a nightmare. In fact several of them accumulate petty underpaid jobs to live in timeworn rooms with outrageous rental fees. “I always worked like mad to fund my studies” explains Anaïs, aged 21. Last year from March to June, I even worked everyday, including on week-ends from 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM and from 6.00 PM to 11 PM. I spent the rest of the time trying to catch up with the lessons and studying for my exams wherever I could. I slept only 4 hours at night. My body couldn’t follow this stress: I weighed only 42 kilos for a 1.65m and started smoking dope and taking anti-depressants to feel better. I somatised everything and my colon was always irritated. I ate anything at anytime and I felt dreadful. I was always stressed and obsessed by just one thought: to ensure the vital minimum at all costs while achieving my studies.” Anaïs is less tough on herself now, but she keeps on working hard to ensure her future: “I’m aiming at the PhD and to this end I put 40 Euros aside each month. Those who don’t need to worry are the first ones of the class… they lead a dreamlike life” she concludes.
Prostitution: the extreme limit
Weakened by a high economic precariousness, these students can rapidly become an easy prey to all kinds of marauders. Some tenants who thrive on the housing crisis can propose a room or a sofa to students in turn of “services”, more explicitly: sexual services. There’s an abundance of ads of this kind on the net. “Some men take advantage of these young girls’ despair. We always warn our web surfers about this, but we can’t investigate on every ad” states Missive’s Web Master. Zara, 23, confesses she resorted to this, for economic reasons. Three years ago, she placed an ad on Paris Paname’s website: “Young girl is looking for accommodation in turn of services”. “I was thinking about house work, ironing, baby sitting, she says. I received tens of answers: only men who all wanted sex.” Another trend involving from 15000 to 40000 students is escorting, in other terms, the occasional prostitution of students. Laura recounts her experience as an escort girl in a book entitled “Mes chères études. Etudiante, 19 ans, job alimentaire: prostituée» (ed. Max Milo). She tells about how her financial problems led her to practice prostitution. A violence Laura didn’t’ stand for long: “I’m still studying and having a hard time to earn a living like the other students, but I don’t sell myself anymore. Something triggered in my mind and I freed myself from this mechanism I had fallen into. Today I want to finish my studies and work in a proper environment”. In short, the dream of every 20 year old girl!
Sarah Ben Ammar