Jay Wood – Last Week in Tunis


Due to having spotty wifi the past few days, I have not been able to post until now.
Now that I have been in Tunisia for almost two months, my research has answered many of the questions that I have come with, but has opened up so many more in the process. On the topic of the education system in Tunisia, Tunisia spends more per capita than any other North African country yet many of the schools lack running water and electricity. I have discovered a stark contrast in development between the eastern coast of Tunisia and the interior which has been historically underdeveloped. Much of the social and political unrest originates from this region and it is easy to see why the youth have felt this way. Even in Tunis itself, those with higher education find it harder to gain employment in the country than other low-skill jobs. While speaking with high school students I found that it was not uncommon for classmates to disappear from class in the middle of the school year only for their peers to find them posting from Italy on facebook weeks later. Although there are many grassroots organizations focused on education, many of these organizations are largely funded by USAID and are focused on getting Tunisian students into American or European universities. In order to truly address political unrest or immigration to Europe from Tunisia, the economy must be reformed in a sustainable way that prioritizes the development of historically ignored regions and provides opportunities for youth. While the president has spoken extensively to his base about removing foreign economic influence from Tunisia, he has not introduced any concrete or comprehensive economic plan. In 2024 presidential elections will take place, the first since Saied’s dictatorial power-grab. It is very possible that he is waiting until after these elections to enact what will be highly unpopular IMF reforms. For all of his autocratic and xenophobic flaws, Saied remains passively popular with many Tunisians. Although many Tunisians I have spoken to say that the country was better under Ben Ali’s 40 year dictatorship, polls find that Tunisians do not regret the revolution, regardless of its failures. I have three days left in Tunis before I head back to the U.S., and I am constantly reminded of how beautiful this country is, and how much I have enjoyed my time here.

Across Tunisia, the revolutionary spirit and solidarity with oppressed peoples can be seen.
Playing chess at an organized tournament in Tunis.