Friday, September 21, 2012

One of my most challenging weeks in education.

It is quite hard to know where to start in blogging about the last week here in Tunis. Last Friday we closed the school early due to information that there was to be some sort of protest activity outside the American Embassy, which is right across the road from the school. As we said our good-byes to each other around 1.00 p.m. no one had any idea what would eventuate.
We were to find out later that around 2 p.m. the protest turned ugly and crowds of people lead by the salafist group smashed their way in to the outer areas of the embassy and then unbelievably moved in to our school, destroying first all of the surveillance equipment and then setting on fire our lower elementary classrooms. What followed next were crowds of young men from the local neighborhood, who seized upon the opportunity and also entered the school looting everything they could lay their hands on.
Calls of help were made by our own school guards who were obviously outnumbered to police, the fire department and the Tunisian army. What was most disturbing was their reaction—it was three to four hours later that they arrived on the scene, way too late to do anything.
On Saturday morning, the leadership team arrived at school to assess the damage—5 classes and one library completely burned out, 7 more smoke-damaged and every other space in the school a mess with upturned tables and gear thrown about. It has been unbelievable! So much destruction.
The week has seen everyone trying their hardest to pitch in and clean, sort and redistribute everything. Makeshift classes are being put together and we will prepare to re-open soon. Emotionally people are all over the place, with many tears being spilt.
It certainly will go down as one of my most challenging weeks in education. 

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