A long, long time ago when I went to work as a journalist in northern Canada, I was fascinated by kids and day care centres. A colleague once joked that we should rename the paper “cute kids of the north”, as I recall.
So when I saw this video from Wallah We Can, which means ‘Yes we can’ in the Tunisian language, I was enthralled. These are students at an unusual public boarding school attended by 570 students in Makthar, Tunisia. It is one of the projects run by the group Wallah We Can to support children and youth in that country, whose once proud educational system is in sad shape.
2016 Wallah We Can
It was in 2012 that Lotfi Hamadi discovered the disastrous state of the Hay Grawa school in northwestern Tunisia, in the rural region of Silana where he was born. His parents had moved to France when he was two, and he studied at the Paris Business School and then moved to Montreal, Canada. He returned to Tunisia in 2011, during the Jasmine Revolution, and joined the association “Génération Liberté” (Generation Freedom),
After a visit to the Makthar school, he founded “Wallah We Can!” which supports boarding schools in rural areas, and set out to address some of the most problematic areas, such as the number of broken windows in the schools and the need for warm blankets in dormitories. You can see images from that time on DW’s Eco Africa program which tells its story, and a video of some of the schools from his TEDX talk in 2014.
It calls its model the Greenschool, and is encouraging other schools to apply for certification in the four areas – health, education, food and energy. And it benefits not just the students, who come from low income families in the rural area. Some of the parents of the students work in the fields that produce fruit and vegetables for the school canteen.
The school offered agricultural training to parents who were out of work, and they have become entrepreneurs, says Hamadi, because the school set up an agricultural business and made them shareholders. Drought-tolerant plants, and drip irrigation, help to cope with the arid climate.
The school’s transformation really began with raising funds to buy and install solar hot water heaters on the school’s roof, allowing students to take hot showers regularly instead of once a month, as they had been limited to earlier due to the school’s poverty and dilapidated state. Over 100 solar panels now produce four times more electricity than the school uses – the excess was used to settle the school’s outstanding power bills and to provide power to three other schools, reported EcoAfrica. Insulating the dormitories also lowered energy consumption and costs.
There are innovative programs everywhere. Take the Ecolibree project, which provides sanitary supplies for menstruating students. It was developed after the school realized that some girls were using foam from their mattresses to provide period protection. Wallah We Can, inspired by an Indian initiative, launched a project to make washable sanitary napkins.
But getting organic cotton was a problem. Now, thanks to a partnership with French lingerie maker Chantelle, it has launched quality washable sanitary panties: more ecological, more economical and durable.
Funds generated by the school’s activities are used for refurbishing, and for supporting school sports and clubs.
Tunisian educational officials hope the model can be applied in other places, reports EcoAfrica. And Hamadi is working to replicate the model in three other schools.
EcoAfrica – the Environment Magazine. DW. Mar. 8, 2023
Wallah we can | Lotfi Hamadi | TEDxCarthage. Aug. 5, 2014
Wallah we can website.