There was silence in the room. No one seemed to want to speak up. I asked again: “what are the most important challenges that you face every day?” Suba, a young woman in her early 20s living in Tripoli, one of the regions with the highest poverty levels and concentration of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, finally raised her hand and said: “We are unemployed and have no access to basic services. We are sympathetic to the Syrian refugee cause. However, they are taking our jobs.
The issue of child soldiers is a modern blight with a long historical pedigree. Once the norm, documented back to the classical world and prevalent till the 19th century, the phenomenon was thought to be slowly disappearing as the modern nation state came into being. Yet it is now seen in almost every continent and in almost every conflict, though rarely among formal militaries.
Every high school student in North America understands the importance of what they do during the summer break. Whether it’s working for the minimum wage at a restaurant or waking up early for an internship, the colleges they apply to will evaluate the commitment and effort they put into work experience. Chances are that colleges—and future employers—won’t be very impressed if students spent the whole summer doing nothing.
Back to school—back to the twin feelings of hope and fear. As the new school year begins, it brings hope for a better future for our children, and fears over what schools really offer them in terms of learning. Current statistics indicate that 50% of students with five years of schooling in Egypt cannot read or write, and 40% cannot do simple mathematics.
In Part II of her interview, Safaa El Tayeb El-Kogali, World Bank Practice Manager for Education, explains the initiatives being take to improve all levels of public education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and how important it is for children to be able to go to school, especially when their countries are affected by conflict.
Tunisia is one of the most secular countries in the Arab region, and it has one of the most developed education systems. Yet, young people from there are attracted in their thousands—like in no other country—to jihadism. The answer to “why?” may lie in the classroom, where radical movements prey on children in elementary and high school, and most especially on vulnerable children who feel marginalized from mainstream society.
Young Arabs express the same concern over the rise of the Islamic State (IS) as young people do elsewhere, the annual Arab Youth Survey reveals. For the second year in a row, the “rise of” IS militants is perceived as the main problem facing the region, with four in every five young people interviewed saying they were more concerned about it than other problems. Its public appeal may have also decreased slightly, findings in the survey suggest.
Should citizens give up some of their rights in the interest of national security? This and many other questions were up for debate when Tunisian youth came together in the capital of Tunis recently to address one of their country’s most pressing questions.
“There’s no weekend for an entrepreneur,” said 24-year-old Hamdy Ben Salah with a smile, when we met on a sunny Saturday morning at his home-based office, where Elyes Labidi and Boulabiar Marwen—two of his five colleagues—were already sitting in front of their computers. The small room they sit in used to be kept for household garbage. But, with furniture and some paint, today it is the base of AlphaLab.