Work hard. Play hard. Learn English. Have fun!
That’s the motto of a new preschool and after-school program in a suburb of Tunis, Tunisia, on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. This fall it opened its doors to 104 children, who come to swim, play pickleball, make art, and learn language. On the tiled terrace upstairs, parents can drink coffee and access free Wi-Fi with a view of the sea.
The director of ClubAnglais is Eric Crane (Ph.D. ’01), who brings 12 years of experience living and working in Morocco as well as raising a family in a multicultural and multilingual environment. His doctorate was in work, family, and community education with an international focus and support from a Rotary scholarship and a Fulbright. He and his wife moved their family to Tunisia a year ago to work on developing what they thought would be new school.
In Morocco, Crane was involved with several educational projects and became acquainted with research in dual language and immersion education.
“When my family and I began considering moving to Tunisia, I immediately knew that I should enroll in the dual language and immersion education program in CEHD,” says Crane. He contacted associate professor Dee Tedick and began working on the specialist certificate in the fall of 2013.
Tunisians commonly speak two or more languages, including Arabic and French. English is increasingly common, but U.S. businesses and organizations have had a hard time recruiting professionals with families to Tunisia, where French has dominated the education and business sectors. ClubAnglais was developed with the support of investors seeking to meet the needs of families with children who speak or want to learn English.
“Things are going well,” says Crane. “My studies in dual language and immersion provided a solid framework to launch ClubAnglais.”
Tunisia was the birthplace of the revolutionary wave that swept through the region in 2011. So far, it is the sole Arab nation to gain a democracy and relative stability. After half a century of dictatorship, with a new constitution, Tunisia held elections this fall for a parliament and president. It faces many challenges, including the hard task of rebuilding its economy.
Crane is one of several CEHD alumni in and from Tunisia who are making a difference.
Isaac Bolger (M.A., ’11) works a few miles away at the Mediterranean School of Business, the first U.S. style business school in Tunisia. In a burgeoning business hub just outside the capital, MSB’s state-of-the-art, technology-rich classrooms are filled with students from around the Mediterranean and Europe. Bolger is the director of international development and chair of student affairs.
Imed Labidi (M.A. ’98) grew up in Tunisia under censorship. Today he teaches in the Department of French and Italian and also in the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, where he went on for a Ph.D. His focus is media and film.
Three years ago, Labidi piloted a University Global Seminar over winter break, giving students the opportunity to visit Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar and discuss the role of news and social media in the region’s popular uprisings. His course has proved so popular that this year it will expand to include Dubai, land of skyscrapers as well as souks.
Salah Ayari (Ph.D. ’98), now teaching Arabic at Texas A&M University, started taking student groups to Tunisia several years ago. After the revolution, he moved the program to Morocco. This year, he’s hoping it will be back in Tunisia.
Story by Gayla Marty | Winter 2015