“I miss school while I am working to pay for the school tuition”

Click to read in Kurdish or Turkish.

Why do students have to work while studying? What do female students face while working? How does the school and work cycle work? We talked to female friends on campus about this issue.

Students have to work as cheap labor when we cannot meet our most basic needs, such as transportation to accommodation. The situation becomes more difficult for female students as the price hikes clamp down on all students, and the burden of the crisis is taken from them.

In addition to struggling with grim conditions, being protected from verbal and physical harassment in the workplace is also an important problem for female students. Ninety-two percent of women face harassment, mobbing, and obstacles in the workplace. Fifty-nine percent of women have experienced mobbing in the workplace; 39 percent say they are prevented from exercising their legal rights such as paid leave and unionized; 39 percent say they are discriminated against in career and promotion, and 28 percent of them are verbally harassed.

So, under what conditions do female students continue their education alongside work? What are the factors that drive them to work? Why do they have to work in very underpaid jobs with harsh conditions? We talked to female friends on campus about this issue.

“I thought I would relax when I went to university, but the conditions became more difficult”

Yasemin, who is studying for preschool education, said that besides school, she spends most of her day  at work:

“I started working at the age of 13. So I couldn’t live my childhood fully because I worked as an agricultural worker at a young age. I had to adapt to difficult conditions. I thought I would relax when I went to university, but the conditions got harder. I worked in a hotel in Ayvalık in the summer; besides molesting me, the hotel manager made me do hard work because I rejected him. Besides, I had to change my dressing style, and the psychological pressures turned into physical fatigue. My work efficiency has decreased. I was constantly feeling nervous and uneasy while working.

“Right now, I work an average of 8-10 hours. So even though I do the same job as male employees, I am paid less. While working at the same workplace with my boyfriend, he gets 1000 TL more money from me at the end of the job, even though I start work 1-2 hours earlier than him. This patriarchal view touches me a lot. I try to devote as much time to my social life as possible, but it never satisfies me because it is minimal. As I try to maintain my education and working life together, there is no time left. In fact, money helps us buy time. If you don’t have money, you sell all your time; you get money in return. That is the gist of the story. I am currently taking a dance course besides learning a language. Besides, I miss language lessons because I have to work to pay for the installments of the language course. I live in a vicious circle. I can see my friends once a month. Even when I go out, my head is always busy. I have to pay the rent; the bills have come. Should I take care of them or buy shoes before winter comes?”

“There is no time left for my social life” 

Sıla from electrical and electronics engineering also talked about the problems she experienced during the internship: 

“The scholarship and the support I get from my family are not enough. That’s why I work six days a week. It is tough for me to work these two together. Since work and school are hectic, there is no time for my social life. However, my salary is not enough for anything. Even though I’m at risk of failing in class because I missed school, the bosses are trying to exploit me directly. They don’t care how you feel or how tired you are. I go to school and then when I come home I have to work. You can more or less guess the difficulty of working in this country where we have problems even when applying for a job. I was harassed via my phone number and social media accounts in my previous job application for an internship. We fight harassment rather than poor working conditions.”

“There is only time to sleep”

Dila, who is studying Fashion and Textile Design, also explained that she had to work due to economic problems:

“I have to work both for my livelihood and to support my family because, in the current situation, it is impossible for us to live without working while we barely make a living by working. It is challenging to manage school and work at the same time. Because you have to go to school, take exams, and at the same time you have to work and earn a living. In other words, there is little time to study for exams and to devote to school. As for my social life, I don’t have any, just like everyone else. Because when I’m not at school, I have to be at work; when I’m not at work, I have to be at school. There is only time to sleep, which is not quite enough time.”

“Although I did not want to work as a student, I started looking for a job not to burden my family. I got the first job I found,” said Zümrüt, who studies agricultural engineering, and continued:

“We worked 10 hours daily and agreed on a wage of 80 TL. I was compelled to accept because I needed work immediately. I worked all day without taking a break, not even eating. One day, I went out to smoke an hour before my shift was due and was scolded for “how can you stay idle” and was fired. We need to voice our rights and look for solutions together. Otherwise, we cannot avoid being exploited and insulted. We need to act together with other female friends.”

Fight against harassment

Women who work in bad conditions to meet their basic needs and who are worked for months under the name of internship cannot escape from the exploitation of their labor to survive. For women, a good job is not a high-paying job; it’s a job with a low risk of harassment. Every woman says that even if the scholarship were enough, they wouldn’t have to work. For female students who can’t even find the motivation to go to school, the university is starting to become an environment for survival.

Every year, there is a so-called scholarship increase, but the government, which raises dormitory prices, meals, and transportation, takes more out of the student’s pocket than the scholarship raise. Along with these, the KYK debt remains a burden on the student’s shoulders. Without employment, students who worry about their future are driven to contemplate what they will do after graduation. Women in universities should unite and fight for common demands, such as secure work, increased measures against harassment and abuse, and demand their rights. We have no choice but to fight for our rights for a good future and an education life in good conditions.

*Photo: Evrensel

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