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Tunisia to hire thousands of new teachers

By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 13/07/11

Tunisia is set to hire thousands of new teachers while at the same time doing away with a long-derided aptitude test for those wishing to join the ranks of educators.

Many teaching hopefuls said the Contest of Aptitude for Secondary Education Teachers (CAPES) was a barrier to employment and a source of corruption. Ahmad Sebri, Director of Professional Contests at the Education Ministry, made the announcement on June 28th, saying that this year's test would be the last.

The education ministry will also hire 2,000 new teachers, 1,345 new superintendents and 120 new chief superintendents, according to Sebri. By the time of his announcement last month, the ministry had received more than 330,000 job applications. The ministry plans to rely on the files of each individual candidate rather than written tests.

"For ten years I have taken the CAPES contest annually so that I could practice my work as a secondary education history professor," Majdi Bou Aben told Magharebia with dismay. "I was not able to secure the amount of 6,000 dinars in bribes to succeed in this contest, which was adopted in the era of the former regime."

Bou Aben added, "Praise be to God, the fruits of the revolution accomplished by the unemployed youth started with abolition of this barrier, which prevented thousands graduates of higher education from practicing their work as teachers."

Officials plan to base new hiring decisions on the social situation of candidates, the training courses they have completed, their age and seniority in graduation. Technical and psychological testing will then be performed.

"Candidates will be able to challenge the results of the contest if it turns out that there are infractions, so long as documents are provided proving that," the education ministry official said.

"We had despaired of trying to surmount this contest, which was instituted as an obstacle confronting young people," said Naima Bechir, 38, who holds a professorship in Arabic literature.

She added, "This contest has contributed to deepening the crisis of nepotism and bribery in Tunisia, for success comes through money or power, and the rest are waiting in a lifetime queue, passing [time] without work."

"This contest, established by the former president, was nothing but an opportunity for discrimination in employment," she told Magharebia.

Although abolishment of the difficult contest was crucial to some, fear of unemployment will persist among young Tunisians.

"I think the principle of seniority will make us wait a lot until it is our turn for assignment, especially with the CAPES or teaching aptitude contest having been abolished," said Moez Baoudh, a recent graduate.

"True, I am delighted by abolishment of this contest, but at the same time I am fearful about the future," said Chiheb Al Omri, who obtained a professorship in physics this year. "Perhaps abolishing this contest does not, at base, eliminate favouritism and bribery."

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