Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki deployed enormous efforts last month to reunify Maghreb countries, but they are still suffering from several political, economic and educational problems.
Education is probably the most important field on this front, being the only indicator of progress and prosperity, and the safety valve of development and change. Education can guarantee a better future, and it is the safest way to catch up with developed countries and the international community where there is no room for ignorant and scientifically backward nations.
Certain facts and data might motivate Maghreb political regimes to change.
For example, on November 28th, 2011, the Dean of Manouba’s Faculty of Arts was detained on campus, and demonstrators demanded gender segregation and a prayer room. After this incident, the Tunisian Minister of Education, Taieb Baccouche, announced that education was an absolute priority in post-revolution Tunisia.
Besides the emergence of Salafism in Tunisia, and its attempts to intervene with education and school curricula, some studies published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies stress that Tunisia “needs to establish a new educational system that values the Arabic language”.
In Libya, the most important achievement in education will be the elimination of the Green Book from the curricula. The General center for training and educational development in Libya confirmed its intention to adopt a new vision in education, and asserted that Libyans have equal rights and duties. This announcement marks a new beginning, and it is a step towards the adoption of an educational system that shares a common vision of the future and inevitable geographical fate with other Maghreb countries.
The situation is different in Mauritania, where government statistics and statements revealed that 23% of national income is allocated to education, whereas the World Bank considers the Mauritanian educational system as one of the weakest in the Arab world. As a matter of fact, the percentage of enrollment in schools was 84%. Most importantly, 40% of students drop out from primary school, and only 50% of technical school students end up in the labor market. All these are governmental statistics that give grounds to pessimism…
In an attempt to address these challenges, the Mauritanian government has recently introduced some positive measures to reform education, such as designing strategies to fight illiteracy and develop the management of education and language training for teachers. The government also signed cooperative programs with the Moroccan authorities to train Mauritanian students in Moroccan institutes. The Mauritanian Ministry of Education also organized several activities for the youth, in order to stimulate excellence and innovation in the field of science.
In conclusion, I think that Maghreb countries are experiencing a challenging historical and political juncture today. This requires considering union and standardized educational curricula across the Maghreb, in order to ensure competition and development, and benefit from the scientific and political revolution. We are living in a world that constantly seeks union despite cultural differences, so Maghreb countries should also unite, because we – as nations and governments – have more convergences than divergences.
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