School and MSN

Selina is 15 she in her last year of school before going off to do an apprentiship probably in a hotel. She lives with her mother. Her mother is an exceptionally warm and loving woman who takes care of all the children of the neighbourhood. They live in a big block of flats full of families and children, and her mother has become the auntie of all of them.

Selina has taken from her mother and seems to have an enourmous network of friends. “MSN is the first thing that starts when I switch on the computer. The page opens up as soon as I turn on the computer but I have to confirm the connexion. I could have made it run automatically but I prefer not because you know, sometimes I just dont want to chat. My buddy list is pretty long: there’re 123 girls, 250 boys and on the whole, there are more than 500 addresses. I know all the girls in real life. As for the boys there are some I know and some I don’t know. The ones I know are people I go out with, who are in school with me or are friends of my own friends.

Sometimes, I put myself off line and I only talk with the people I want to talk to one to one. For example, when I chat with my best friend. The others don’t know that I’m connected so we can chat one to one for a while without being interrupted and so on.  What do we talk about?? All and nothing! I don’t know what to say… It can be very personal, for example with my best friends or just chit chat. .. And there’s also the webcam and microphone that are linked to MSN. For example, if I haven’t seen a friend of mine for 2 or 3 days in a row, I tell her to put on her webcam so I can see her. We have fun a while and sometimes, my mom comes by and says hello too. It’s funny because it’s just as if my next door neighbour was in the States or somewhere very far away but in fact she’s just behind this wall….”

Selina has a really good balance in her life, she enjoys her school, has many friends and when she can’t be with them in person she uses MSN to chat and continue conversations she started at school.

A year later we go back to see her and the situation is dramatically different. She didn’t  get any offer for an apprentiship. In her school the kids and their families are responsible for finding businesses that will accept to take trainees for one or two years. The teenagers will go to a professional school one day a week to have the formal part of training, but the rest of the week is spent at work “learning the trade”. Businesses are used to having trainees that they select and pay a nominal salary. More or less 75% of 16 year olds leave school and start an apprentiship program, so finding an internship can be quite difficult as the competition is harsh. Many families rely on personal connections to place their children, and the schools are of little or no support.

Selina has been unlucky and hasn’t found any business that would take her in, this means also that she cannot attend the professional school either. So she is virtually unemployed and stuck at home. She is very depressed, has severed connections with most of her friends which she doesn’t see at school anymore either.

Well our class just all split up because some friends went to the commercial training, others to the technical ones. I’m the only one who couldnt find a place, I asked around, sent at least 30 letters, to all the hotels in the area and even my dad, tried with the people he knows. But they all said no, they already had all the trainees for this year.  So now I just decided to cut down on Msn , I threw away about 450 contacts, I only have 40 buddies left and I only talk to 3 or 4. Anyway the others were all talking about their new jobs, their bosses and I didn’t feel good. They would ask me how it was going and what I was doing and I didn’t have much to say.

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