Music bonds youths in Tunisia  


The town of Haffouz, located in Tunisia, lies a desolate and impoverished religion known for high rates of unemployment and suicide.

Every Friday, local students take part in a club where traditional music and techno beats are played to boost morale in the derelict classrooms, reports AFP.

The after-school music club is called Tunisia 88, a reference to the number of keys on a piano. Local children and teenagers apart of Tunisia 88 come together to compose and rehearse music for a creative break from their bleak surroundings in the dust bowl of central Tunisia. 

The club’s 16- year-old elected leader, Eya Makhloufi, who plays the electric organ, described it as “a place of escape and to free yourself from the stress of school. To compose songs, organise outings and take part in events”. 

Tunisia 88 was founded in 2017 by US concert pianist Kimball Gallagher and Tunisian entrepreneur Radhi Meddeb. Across almost 600 Tunisian schools, it has engaged from 5,000 to 10,000 youths per year. 

Each club “is a protected space where young people can express themselves, make their voices heard and convey very interesting messages: extreme emotions, the fulfillment of women, the state of the country, their dreams, the environment”, said Gallagher. 

“For us, a student is not an empty glass to be filled, but a seed that we plant and which will grow if we offer the right conditions,” added Gallagher, whose project provides instruments, teachers and training in musical creativity and leadership skills.

READ: Tunisia’s striking teachers Knocked out by Saied’s iron fist 

Rabaa Mwelhi, coordinator of Tunisia 88 clubs, said the goal “is not really music itself but that they work as a team, learn to manage everyday stress, and work within a limited deadline”.

The clubs not only cater to young musicians but also those interested in graphic design, videography and public communication with venues and art centres.

On top of their weekly rehearsals, local clubs put on concerts and compete nationwide for the best song and best event, all entirely organised by the students. Mwelhi praised their independence saying “They do everything on their own” even looking for sponsors. 

Eya and her 15 fellow club members have produced a song and video clip in praise of Kairouan, the region’s ancient city with spiritual importance to many Muslims, expressing hope it will soon recover.

Eya also said that the music project has been helping to lift the spirits of local youths.

“Young people are stuck at home doing nothing, which can lead to psychological disorders, problems with family and friends, harassment at school and humiliations,” she said, “These things can lead to suicide”. 

Facing a life of poverty and with a lack of motivation, 40% of people between the ages of 16 and 25 are unemployed, with over 100,000 students abandoning their studies each year, in a country which is long hailed for its education system. 

Occupations like farming have been widely impacted as years of withering drought have devastated farmlands around Haffouz. The drought has been blamed on Climate change but nevertheless has caused lacklustre crops and farmers left high and dry. 

READ: Tunisia: Helpless armrest highlight the impact of droughts

The wider Kairouan region tops national rankings in unemployment, illiteracy and suicides. Kairouan recorded 26 out of Tunisia’s 147 documented suicides and attempted suicides last year, says non-government group FTDES.

The group’s Rihab Mabrouki told AFP, “We went from isolated cases to a terrifying phenomenon which mostly affects young people between the ages of 16 and 35.” 

She blamed poor development levels, unemployment and “a lack of cultural spaces which increases a feeling of frustration and stagnation among young people.”

Eya’s father, Mehrez Makhloufi, who is a high school teacher said that in the years since the club was set up “many students have come out of their isolation and begun to believe in their abilities”, hoping for a brighter future for the younger generation. 

Tunisia 88 has won praise for helping youths in the north African country that has been hit hard by political and economic crises and become a transit hub on the irregular migrant route to Europe.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

[mc4wp_form id="206"]