I recently began a new regular interview series. There are always lots of “hot spots” around the world — places where there are natural disasters, political upheavals, etc. And English teachers can be found in most of those places. If you are an EFL/ESL teacher in one of those areas, please let me know.
Today, English teacher Tarak Brahmi, who is a member of The Tunisian English Teaching Forum and edits its magazine, has agreed to answer a few questions. By the way, if you want to learn more about the Tunisian Revolution, this week’s issue of The New Yorker has an excellent article (most of it is behind a paywall right now, but they usually release it a week or two after publication):
First, can you tell me a little about yourself — how you ended up becoming an English teacher and why, your role in the Forum, where in Tunisia do you live, and anything else you’d care to share?
I am a teacher of English from Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. I have been teaching for more than 11 years now.
The idea of a magazine for teachers of English as a Foreign Language goes back to the year 2007. By then, I was teaching in Hamad Town Preparatory School in Bahrain; I just had my ICDL (International Computer Driving License) and I cultivated a taste and love for graphic design using InDesign and Photoshop. My colleagues shared my enthusiasm for creating a magazine where we could publish articles about techniques and strategies related to teaching English. Later that year, we published one issue of a magazine that we entitled “Teach&Share”. The following year, I went back to Tunisia.
When I discussed the idea of a forum and an online magazine with the inspector of English in Sidi Bouzid, Mr. Mohamed Salah Abidi and teacher trainer Mr. Fathi Bouguerra , they were very encouraging. About a week later, we started posting articles to the forum. By the end of September, the first issue of “The Tunisian English Language Teaching Forum” was online. Three more issues followed with valuable contributions from teachers and educators from Tunisia, The U.S.A, England, Bahrain and Ireland. The blog has visitors from more than 100 countries. We really hope it can be of some help for teachers of English all over the world.
Becoming a teacher was a dream come true. I was lucky enough to have outstanding teachers throughout my school life who not only showed me the way but also greatly influenced my choice of the dream job that I wanted to have. Their unique personalities, their true passion and their deep devotion made a real difference in my life and my career.
What are two or three key experiences or moments you felt, saw, or did during the Tunisian revolution?
Maybe the first moment which will be engraved in my mind for years to come is when I was going back to Sidi Bouzid from my school in Lessouda (about 6 miles away) on the 17th of December. When we reached the town centre, there were people running in all directions followed by enraged policemen. Some were rubbing their eyes; tear gas bombs were shot by the local police in retaliation for the first in a series of protests following Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation. I knew something serious was going on but I never thought this young man’s desperate reaction would spark the most dramatic wave of protests against tyranny and injustice in the country and later in the Arab world.
Another unparalleled experience in my life is the day we witnessed the ousting of the ex-president. This was also followed by Tunisians all over the country deciding to spend sleepless nights outside in the cold to protect their neighborhoods armed with wooden sticks to face militia of the old regime that were reportedly roaming the country trying to frighten and to shoot civilians. It was an impressive moment of unity and heroism.
How do you think many Tunisians feel about the momentum your country started for democratic reform throughout the Arab world? Do you think many thought that their work might have that kind of impact?
I think most Tunisians feel pride and satisfaction because they put an end to long years of oppression. It is true that what happened in Tunisia inspired other actions throughout the Arab World but we know that many friends and fellow Arabs were supportive of the Tunisian Revolution through the internet or other mediums. I think that Tunisians are now more preoccupied with the aftermath of the revolution and how to make sure there is no going back to the pre-14th of January era.
What do you think the future holds for your country?
I think that the future of Tunisia now – after many years of alienation- lies between the hands of the Tunisians. It is a unique opportunity and if we can seize it properly, we will pave the way for a real democracy. Maybe this will take some time but we will be really glad to know and to ensure that the younger Tunisian generations will reap the fruits of the revolution some years ahead from now. It will be really shameful to see the blood of scores of martyrs go in vain. This is why many think the revolution has not ended. It has just begun.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
Thank you so much, Larry, for giving me the chance to share my thoughts on your blog. I would also like to thank you for warmheartedly accepting to contribute to our online magazine.