Education International
Education International

Tunisia faces teacher strike, protests against new government

published 24 January 2011 updated 24 January 2011

Teachers across Tunisia have gone on strike today, when many students intended to return to class, after weeks of mass protests that brought down the government of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Protests against the interim government have also turned violent, with demonstrators hurling rocks and bottles at riot police, smashing police cars, and shattering windows at the Finance ministry. Police fired tear gas at protesters.

Across Tunisia, many businesses remained shuttered, as fears of unrest jostled with hopes for a more democratic future.

The actions of teachers, protesters, and shopkeepers show that Tunisia is far from returning to business as usual, and that the interim government now faces a serious test of its staying power.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi took over after Mr. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January. He is leading a caretaker government that mixes officials from the hated former government with new blood.

Mr. Ghannouchi has pledged elections for a new government in six months, but many Tunisians do not appear to be willing to wait that long. They say new ministers have merely been co-opted into the new government as window dressing for what remains a corrupt and autocratic regime.

The teachers' union has called for an indefinite strike to protest the inclusion in the transitional government of ministers from Ben Ali's regime.

Classes had been canceled since 10 January. A teachers' union official said that most teachers nationwide appeared to have heeded the union's call and stayed away from classrooms.