Bhar Lazreg Educational Complex: who said miracles don’t happen?

April 23, 2024
Share on

In the heart of Bhar Lazreg, in the middle of the bustling streets of one of the most underprivileged neighbourhoods in Tunis, stands a beacon of hope: the Bhar Lazreg educational complex. It is not just a building, but also a sanctuary of education, a harbour of opportunity and a symbol of progress for future generations.

As the bell rings for the 10 o’clock break, the once quiet building suddenly comes to life. Under the golden rays of the sun, the air is filled with laughter, the chatter of eager students and the rhythm of hurried footsteps echoing through the corridors.

Saoussen, a member of the administrative staff, greets each student by name, her warmth and care enveloping them like a comforting hug. “These are my children,” she says proudly, her eyes shining with affection. For Saoussen and her colleagues, this is more than just a job; it is a vocation, a mission to nurture the young minds entrusted to their care.

The director speaks with a smile that radiates wisdom about the profound effect the complex has on its students: “They feel that we care about them,” he says, “and that this school gives them the best chance to succeed. It makes them much more disciplined, and I am proud to say that this is the least troubled school I have ever worked at.” Indeed, within these walls, barriers are overcome, dreams are sparked and futures are forged.

In the classrooms, dedicated professors like the French teacher put their heart and soul into their work, fuelled by the boundless curiosity and enthusiasm of their students. “Now that we have the rooms, we have so much space,” she remarks, beaming with enthusiasm. “And such motivated students.” She says that she wants to set up the library together with the students and start a book club. “Maybe a theatre club too!” She exclaims.

Closing the education gap

Inaugurated in September 2022 and completed in just one year, the Bhar Lazreg education complex ushered in a new era of education and opportunity for residents.

Before the construction of the school complex, Bhar Lazreg, a densely populated area, had no educational infrastructure of its own, so parents had to send their children to distant schools in neighbouring areas. Parents had to drop their children at different schools in different places, most of which were far away from their homes.

The inauguration of the complex was a historic moment, not only for Bhar Lazreg, but for the entire community. With its primary, middle and high schools as well as a municipal kindergarten, a restaurant and a sports ground, the complex makes it easier for residents to access quality education in nearby, modern facilities.

Parents no longer have to choose between education and convenience. Children are no longer denied the opportunity to learn and grow in their own neighbourhood. The complex was a promise fulfilled — a promise of accessible, quality education for all.

The MES programme, a driving force for change

With a budget of just over 11 million dinars, the Bhar Lazreg Complex (accommodates 1,650 students.) is one of the most ambitious construction projects of the School Modernisation Programme (PMES). With the support of the Tunisian government, the European Union, the European Investment Bank and KFW, the programme aims to improve the quality of educational spaces in educational institutions through development and refurbishment measures to make these spaces more attractive and encourage students to attend them. This project also aims to strengthen and renew the teaching resources in the facilities.

From the state-of-the-art facilities to the commitment to sustainability, every aspect of the complex reflects a deep respect for the environment and a dedication to the well-being of students and staff. Solar panels adorn the roof, and evidence of a community coming together to create something truly exceptional can be found in every corner.

The complex also features a communal restaurant for the middle and high school students. With its spacious, modern interior and cuisine that rivals that of a luxury hotel, the restaurant sets the standard for excellence. Here, students are treated to a feast for the senses and enjoy meals together.

The wall art that adorns the halls is a testament to this spirit of collaboration. An artist, together with talented students, has brought colour and life to the walls.

From residents to stewards: promoting community ownership

The Bhar Lazreg Complex is a modern school with state of the art facilities, but it is so much more than that. It is developing into a vibrant centre of community life.

In the words of the director: “The residents are very happy about this campus; they see it as a harbinger of good things to come, a sign that they are not forgotten.” A feeling shared by all the residents of the neighbourhood, for whom the school has become a symbol of hope and progress.

But what really characterises this complex is its open arms policy towards the community and the embrace it receives in return. Before there was an official cleaning staff, students and their families would come together every weekend to clean the school. This was not just a chore, but a family activity that instilled a sense of pride and ownership in the school.

But the journey was not without its challenges. In the early days, the school faced vandalism from unmotivated youths who saw the school as nothing more than a target for mischief. But instead of putting up barriers, the school made a brave decision: it opened its doors to the community at weekends. What followed was quite simply amazing.

“The school became a place for young people and even adults,” explains the headmaster with a smile. “They come, have picnics in the grounds, bring their loudspeakers, play music and organise football matches in the stadium.” By seeing the school as their own, the community found a sense of belonging and purpose. And in turn, they became its fiercest protectors.

There were no more acts of vandalism or destruction. Instead, the young people of the neighbourhood took pride in protecting their school because they realised that it belonged to them as much as it belonged to the students and staff. That is the power of inclusion and community ownership.

Awakening hope: lost youth return to school

When they saw this school on the weekends, some children who had dropped out wanted to go back to school. Saoussen talks about this as she stands in the middle of the busy courtyard, her eyes shining with passion: “I grew up here and worked in the middle school in this neighbourhood before the school was built,” she says. “I have known many of these children for years and have seen some of them leave school.”

Her voice sounds hopeful as she continues: “Since they have known me and know that I work in the beautiful new school, so many have approached me and said that they want to resume their education. And indeed, they are doing well now, because they have continued their education where they left off.”

Through the support of the European Union, the dedication of passionate educators and the commitment of the community, the complex has become more than just a school, it symbolises hope and inspiration for future generations.

As the doors opened to welcome a new generation of students, the future of Bhar Lazreg shone brightly. With each student who walked through those doors, a promise was renewed — a promise of accessible, quality education, of infinite possibilities and of a brighter future for all. Etched in the eyes of every child who dared to dream was the story of Bhar Lazreg’s educational journey — a story of resilience, empowerment and the power of education to change lives and communities.

And the journey has only just begun. With every step forward, guided by the light of knowledge and fuelled by the fire of ambition, the Bhar Lazreg community is marching boldly towards a future where every dream, no matter how big or small, can come true.

Education Youth