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Despite improving living conditions, over a million Tunisians live in poverty. Life is particularly hard for children born out of wedlock, who face social stigma and often a life of poverty. Across four key locations in Tunisia, we work with a particular focus on social cohesion. … more about our charity work in Tunisia

Uncertain future for Tunisia’s children

As life slowly gets nearer to normal after what people are calling the yasmine revolution, the United Nations calls attention to the future of Tunisia’s children.

The north African country is now awaiting elections under an interim government after president Mr Ben Ali, was last month ousted in upheavals that spread across the Arab world.

It comes after weeks of mass protests over unemployment, poverty and freedom, lead by the country’s young people.

With 40 per cent of the country’s 10 million population aged under 25, attention now needs to turn to the future of its children, says the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

About, 98 per cent of Tunisia’s children enrol in primary school. Thousands of them, though, drop out every year, despite the fact that education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. In 2009 an estimated 69,000 children left school.

Hamza lives in Sidi Hcine on the outskirts of the capital, Tunis. On week days, when he should be at school, he works at the fish market in central Tunis. He is the middle of a family of three children. Hamza’s older brother is 17 and goes to a private school. His little sister is seven and started school this year. Hamza is working to help pay for their education. Both his parents work too, his father works night shifts and his mother is a house cleaner. Because of safety, a curfew and no transport, none of them could go to work during the protests.

On a good day at the market, Hamza can bring home about £4 cleaning, delivering and running errands. But he keeps hardly any of it.

I would like to sign up for a vocational training class,” he said. “I would still work at the market on my days off so that I can make some money, he told aid workers. “But I would really like to learn a skill.

Children who leave school before they reach 16 and don’t carry on their education, usually stay in limbo, said Tunis child protection officer Mehyar Hamadi.

Money, or rather lack of it – is most often the cause of the problem,” he says.

Poverty, especially when combined with lack of education or awareness, is a breeding ground for violence, exploitation, deprivations, abandonment and all sorts of abuses against children.

No one knows how many children across the country are in a similar situation to Hamza’s.

Hayley attribution