French students protest over ‘despair’ of isolation

Students protested across France on Wednesday over their conditions during Covid-19 restrictions, saying they were being pushed to the brink of despair by solitude and financial uncertainty.

French students protest over 'despair' of isolation
A lone student at the library of the University of Bordeaux, southwestern France, on January 20th. Photo: AFP

With President Emmanuel Macron due to speak with worried university students on Thursday, they demanded a return to full face-to-face teaching suspended due to the pandemic.

For the time being, only first-year students will be permitted to attend classroom tutorials, from January 25th but in half-groups.

Hundreds protested in Paris, brandishing slogans including “incompetent politicians, students in agony” and “everyone hates online classes”.


Melanie Luce, president of France's national student union UNEF, said classes should be opened for “all students” even if reduced numbers meant doing classes twice over and recruiting more teachers.

“We think the government does not understand the magnitude of the situation,” she added, saying the protests aimed to “defend the life conditions and studies of the students”. 

Some 250 took to the streets in the western city of Rennes, where Josselin, 21, said he was “in despair at the solitude”.

“I am all alone with myself in my 18m2 (194 square feet). Today I received my first lesson in PDF and was told 'get by with that'. There are teachers who no longer even make the effort to make video conferences”.

UNEF has said that a €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) emergency plan is needed for students, urging an immediate raise in grants and help to pay for accommodation.

Macron will Thursday meet students at Paris Saclay university to discuss their situation, with government sources saying new measures to help students could be announced.

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REVEALED: France’s new holiday dates for the 2022/23 school year

School in France is far from out for summer but the dates have been released for the 2022/23 school year complete with holidays and "bridges". Take a look so you can plan your holidays.

REVEALED: France's new holiday dates for the 2022/23 school year

It’s the time of year children dislike most – as is traditional, rentrée in France is on September 1st this year, a Thursday, a day after teachers return to the classroom to prepare for the new term.

The 2022-23 school year then ends – 36 school weeks later – after classes on Friday, July 7th, 2023, later than in recent years and just a week before the fête nationale on July 14th.

 “My class will be almost empty the last week, families will have gone on vacation, especially if the tourist prices are considered out of vacation, therefore less expensive,” a  teacher in Paris told Le Parisien.

Another was concerned about the weather at that time of year. “The longer we get into the year, the hotter it gets. They already forecast 35C on May 18th, so on July 8th, I can’t imagine the heat in class,” she said.

School holidays in France have long been divided into three zones. Summer, autumn and Christmas holidays are taken at the same time across the whole of the country, but the winter and spring breaks are staggered according to which zone a school is in.

The educational zones in France are here 


The Ministry of Education has published a calendar planner for the 2022/23 school holidays on its website, showing the holiday periods for all three zones in France.

Image: ministère de l’éducation nationale et de la jeunesse et des sports

The calendar is available to download as a pdf, here

Notably, pupils in Zone A schools – those in Besançon, Dijon, Grenoble, Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges, Poitiers and Bordeaux – face a longer-than-usual summer term, a two-and-a-half month stretch from April 24th to July 8th. This is a longer term than is usually recommended by education experts – longer even than the 10-and-a-half weeks at the same time last year for two zones, which was described as “a marathon” by both families and teachers.

There will be some breaks in that long run of school weeks, however. May Day and VE Day are both on Mondays next year, Ascension is on Thursday, May 18th, with schools traditionally ‘bridging’ the Friday, and Pentecôte holiday is on Monday, May 28th.

On the flipside, pupils in the same zone also get the shortest term on record in the next school year. They return after the Christmas holiday on January 3rd, and break-up for the winter holidays on February 4th.