If we are not careful, young precarious students risk being forgotten by the crisis we are going through. Hadrien Le Roux, president of Smerep & co-founder of Geeklay, a mutual fund for young people aged 16 to 35, stresses the importance of taking care of them, but above all of listening to them.
Tribune published in the Obs on 04/30/2020
Hadrien Le Roux, president of the student mutual Smerep, which has become Geeklay since the start of the 2019 school year, underlines this: 20% of students live below the poverty line. The economic crisis linked to the pandemic is likely to further increase the problems faced by these young people. Curriculum on hold, academic career frozen and not very open to a job market also in crisis. It alerts to the need to take into account the difficulties that the student world is going through and the solidarity that must prevail to respond to its concerns.
Any crisis that a society goes through plays the role of revealer. Of our fragilities, our weaknesses, the opportunities and our neglected margins. Among precarious populations, young people are often forgotten. By mainly hitting our elders, the Covid-19 does not spare our youth, far from it. In addition to their daily lives, the uncertainties about their near and distant future deeply destabilize them.
Student precariousness finally revealed
The health crisis will have got the better of this fragile public. The student community is currently unable to plan for more than a few weeks. Curriculum on hold, frozen school career with one of the most pessimistic aims on the job market that awaits them.
This collective thought is lived at every moment in the greatest individuality. Like other precarious groups, they live with very limited resources: 500 euros per month according to figures from the HEYME 2020 health survey. This places 20% of them below the poverty line, often in modest habitats sometimes not exceeding 9m², such as these rooms in university residences.
For this black year alone, 56% of them have already lost their job, this job that allowed them to live or their internship necessary for the continuity of their studies. Moreover, this financial situation cannot improve quickly, as these young people depend on parental assistance, which will also be heavily affected by the current crisis.
The difficult equation of confinement and isolation among students
The first victims of this misdeed, the young students had no choice but to take the blame. While they were, for many of them, far from their loved ones at the time of a confinement that one could think of as temporary, physical isolation reveals more and more psychological distress. To whom to turn and speak when one represents, for public thought, an invisible population, and fantasized as carefree as well as problem-free? On these already weakened individuals – 9% of students say they have already used antidepressants – socialization alone through social networks only brings superficial answers, sometimes even with perverse effects. They are also 72% to report having moments of depression.
If the observation is alarming, the future can take shape in a more radiant way. We must not only believe in it, but above all encourage it. Solidarity spreads in society as a virtuous impulse, especially towards the most deprived. The Crous offer meals, the Grandes Ecoles release funds for their students in very precarious situations. The young people help the older ones to do their shopping in the cities, in the villages, in the districts. They are worried, concerned about the other, and a new form of humanity and solidarity is taking shape.
Design a positive future
Will this momentum continue or will we return to the pre-crisis situation? The national effort must first of all focus on this suffering youth. We must enable them to study in the best conditions and offer them the possibility of living with dignity. Young people have shown their strong resilience during this period. They are overflowing with creativity and ingenuity, and they will have to have a central place in the society that we will all try to build together after the crisis.
Yes, crises always have another side. Positive, even if it is hardly perceptible at this stage. And youth bears the first fruits. The world of tomorrow will change and will carry with it a number of behaviors instilled by youth. Globalization, globalization without control and without human beings, has long since ceased to be desired by this generation. This generation which was the first to place ecology at the heart of its construction, thus drawing a hoped-for world, capable of limiting current excesses. A more egalitarian society, when we finally realize that the most precarious of our fellow citizens are also the most fragile. A health care system, defended by these young people and whose absolute necessity is no longer debatable today, after years of stupidly economic vision.
Listening to young people, more than hearing them
They are the caregivers, researchers, caregivers of tomorrow. They are the workers and decision-makers and they are already committed, inventing new forms of solidarity through technological tools that they master and are not subject to, through human commitments and greater proximity in a shrinking world.
This is not a silent revolution, nor yet another utopia for a new world. This generation does not have the immodesty. But of a rare moment when society must listen, more than hear its youth. The one who suffers the crisis violently, whom we must accompany, because it is she who will accompany us in this new world.
By Hadrien Le Roux, president of Smerep & co-founder of HEYME