Katja Petrovic: Like all crises, the Covid-19 pandemic acts as an eye-opener. What are the most serious problems facing students at the moment?
Olivier Ertzscheid: There’s a real urgency, and it’s good that the media has been talking about it now. However, the students have been suffering from financial problems that have nothing to do with COVID for more than six months now. In fact, they’ve been struggling to make ends meet for years, even before COVID. I’m not really sure that we can rank their current problems from the most to the least important. Let’s just say, for someone who’s between 18 and 25 years old, perhaps for them it’s to find their bearings during this time of crisis, like to have at least some human interaction albeit short. These kids are not asking that they be allowed to go to parties, to clubs or to bars. They just want to have at least some time to talk with their classmates in small groups, just to know each other a bit. At the moment, conducting online class during COVID is the only thing we have as a solution, but I think the first of their priorities is really to have some bit of social interaction. Next, is to have the means to buy food, to pay for lodging. But they usually don’t express these problems – not having food to eat or the money to pay rent – because it’s not easy for them to say this.
👉 The other articles in the series on youth in the Covid-19 era :
- Students and the pandemic: a generation sacrificed?
- Young people and Covid-19: how has the pandemic affected their mental health?
- Young people and Covid-19: villains or victims?
What impact does the situation have on your relationship with the students?
The crisis has changed our relationship with the students. We share things with each other that we never talked about before. In our university, we have approximately 150 undergraduate students, a team of professors, and 10 of them are permanent employees which is a privilege given the pandemic. We have to take into consideration the current circumstances without losing track of the university’s objectives. We are all aware that we cannot ask them to do the same tasks with the same expectations with regard to deadlines. It doesn’t mean that we have to change the curriculum, it simply means that we have to take into consideration the special circumstances that we’re all in. That we have to adjust our evaluation, for example. There are students who share with us some personal stuff, like those who have plans of putting up a non-profit grocery shop in the campus or participate in food distributions. When you bump into your students at noon lining up for food baskets right after seeing them in your 10am class, your relationshi…