Students reveal French universities set to burst

University students across France have taken to social media to share pictures of their overflowing lecture theatres, in a bid to raise the alarm bells.

Students reveal French universities set to burst
French university students packed into a lecture hall. Photo: MaSalleDeCoursVaCraquer/Tumblr
There are an additional 65,000 students at universities in France this term taking the total up to 2.5 million – and the students themselves are feeling a little cramped.
For the last few weeks, many have taken to a page on social media site Tumblr called “MaSalleDeCoursVaCraquer” (“My Classroom is about to Burst”), to share pictures of their overflowing lecture theatres. 
Students are seen sitting on the steps in the aisles of the auditoriums, others sit outside the lecture theatre itself with a notepad on their knee. 
Some students shared short videos with scans around the classroom showing more classmates flowing into already packed classrooms.
The initiative was set up by student unions UNEF and UNL, the heads of which wrote in a statement last week that the “significant increase” was a direct result of the baby boom in the nineties. 
They called on the government to take action, urging students to do all they could to have their voice heard and their plight noticed. 
And if the actions of Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday are anything to go by, the campaign may have worked. 
During a visit to a university in Avignon, Valls announced that the government would inject an additional €100 million into the university system in the 2016 budget. This will take the total university education budget to €200 million for next year, double what it was for 2015.
Valls said that the cash injection was an “exceptional case” given the spike in student numbers, which he noted had grown by 1-2 percent each year since 2012, but by 2.8 percent at the beginning of the latest term. 
The full 2016 budget will be announced on Wednesday.
Representatives from the UNEF union weren't impressed with the government plan, saying that once the cash had been shared among 100 institutions, it wouldn't even cover staff payrolls, reported 20 Minutes.
French students made headlines in December for another Tumblr account highlighting the sorry state of the universities around the country. Irate by a lack of funding, students shared pictures of crumbling institutions and organized protest marches across the country. 


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Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.