A few weeks before the celebration of the 2012 Human Rights Day, Tunisia laid the foundation stone of a pilot project to strengthen citizenship and human rights education. Gathering together the Tunisian government, the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR), local NGOs and six UN agencies under the coordination of UNESCO, the project aims to create 24 citizenship and human rights school clubs in seven regions of Tunisia by the end of 2013.
On November 27th, the first citizenship and human rights pilot club was inaugurated in the primary school of Bab Khaled located in the Mellassine district, a poor suburb of Tunis.
This initiative forms part of an agreement , signed in 2011, by the Ministry of Education, the AIHR, the Tunisian League for Human Rights and the UN System, for the reform and mainstreaming of civic education within schools and curricula.
Within this framework, a strategy was developed to create 24 clubs in primary and secondary schools and colleges in seven regions. All these clubs will be evaluated and the operation rolled out in the most vulnerable Tunisian delegations.
On Tuesday, 27 November the Tunisian Minister of Education was accompanied by an important delegation,- representing all the partners of the project – on a visit to the Bab Khaled primary school. All of them reaffirmed their strong commitment to accelerate citizenship education among young people, as the groundwork of any sustainable democratic educational policy that enables youth to participate in the management of their school space and in local community projects. Indeed, one of the innovative aspects of the projects is the bringing together of youth and educational institutions on the one hand and civil society actors on the other, around a concrete project in order to develop local communities and effective civic engagement.
Bab Khaled primary school was not chosen at random. Located in a very disadvantaged area at the border of Bou Hlel district, it has 157 pupils and has lead for a year, successful activities in the field of non-formal citizenship education.
After a performance of the national anthem, visitors were able to discover the wide range of practical activities initiated by the students. An exhibition of handmade vote boxes or bottle cap sculptures was an opportunity to discover educational and entertaining activities organized within and outside the school. A film documented excursions to recycling sites, natural and cultural sites, etc. Produced with the participation of children and the head of the school, it also demonstrated how the school considers the importance of protecting the environmental quality of the school area to ensure the wellbeing of young people.
During the opening ceremony, the six UN agencies, members of the "Citizen Education Task Force" (OHCHR, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF) chaired by UNESCO, expressed with one voice, their willingness to support technically and financially the achievements of this project – which could be the prelude to a national civic education strategy. To this end, the first experts’ missions to identify schools that could host the other 23 pilot clubs in 2013 will start in December 2012. They will be followed by actions such as training of trainers’ sessions in the clubs, production of modules for participatory management and leadership, and granting local projects submitted by youth.
This initiative is fully in support of UNESCO’s work for promoting civic education and democratic culture in Tunisia, and illustrates the effective synergy between UN agencies to deliver as one, benefitting fully from the added value of each Organization.