The Algerian baccalaureate examination took place last week, and before we get the results (which will probably deserve a special post) I thought I would call back my imaginary teacher to tell us a little about the Algerian university which will open its doors to those lucky “bacheliers”.
My story started here but the readers might just read this second part as it relates my new life which has little connection with the previous one. I indeed got promoted very quickly to head of the high school and then to inspector before I retired. And as most Algerians, I was still young when I retired and could still contribute to the well-being of the society and at the same time get a second income (some aspects do not change). So a few months after I retired a friend of mine told me about a teaching position at the university. I know I am no doctor but my experience is valuable and Algerians love experimented workers, which is why many positions in public and private companies are given to retired men and women. Plus, many qualified university teachers have left the country in the nineties and basically anyone could teach at the university. So I became a pedagogy teacher.
That was it about me. I decided today to give you my insider’s view on the university through some events I have witnessed.
As the year was about to start the teachers started looking for the programs they are supposed to teach. So the offices of the different faculties heads were always packed. Ours was full too but the head of the faculty was still enjoying his holidays in Spain. His secretary had no clue on what we should teach and randomly chose the programs just to get rid of us. It was obvious that she was mistaken but who cares… Most teachers are not there to teach and the students are not there to study so the situation suited everyone.
Two weeks later the first strike started. The students’ committee didn’t like the sportswear the university residence gave to the various university sports teams. They wanted Nike and they got Le Coq Sportif so they blocked the entry to the university and the administration. It lasted 10 days and ended only after the committee’s demands were satisfied. I was told to never mess up with any committee member, and if I was unlucky enough to have one in my class, to give them bad marks (because that’s what they wanted, stay in university ad vitam aeternam). Perhaps the Nike sportswear will help one of the teams to finally win something.
I will spare you the details on the other strikes this committee has started during the year but just so you know, they blocked the entry to the university and administration at least four more times and for at least one week each during that year. Once it was because the security crew didn’t let a female student go into the males’ residence; a second time was because the residence director didn’t allow the committee to organise a “gala” (and it was during the exams period). A third time was because the same director didn’t allow the committee to take the picnic food from the university restaurant, and I do not remember the fourth time but be assured it’s probably a similar reason.
I must say here that the committee’s budget is given by the state and is all used for the benefit of the
students committee members and their friends.
And as I mentioned the director of the residence, I’ll tell you something I noticed. The first director was from Bouira and we had noticed that all the subcontractors he hired to perform some tasks at the residence or restaurant were from Bouira. And then we got a new director from Boumerdes, and guess what, subcontractors, food providers, some new employees, all came from Boumerdes. And they dare tell you the Algerian Pouvoir is clanic and regionalist when all the society is regionalist!
And by the way, I also noticed the increasing number of pré-emplois. They were so many (paid only 7000 to 8000 DZD/month) that not only the regular employees stopped working (leaving their tasks to these poor pré-emplois) but the pré-emplois themselves didn’t have much to do. It’s like the Algerian factories in the wonderful socialism years when unemployment was reduced by hiring 10 times workers than needed. So thank you Bouteflika for this “back to the future”. Who cares about efficiency after all and I am not one to complain, many of my family members, long-time unemployed, could finally get jobs, and since the “Arab spring” they are now paid 15000DZD/month so thank you again Mr. president (without sarcasm this time).
Back to academia now. Many of colleagues were magister students (supposedly the best of the best) who were unable to write correctly, let alone give lessons. They spent most of their time gossiping and competing on who’s bought the best car, etc. I noticed that the students (including these colleagues of mine) were as ignorant as I had left them when I was teaching at the high school. I wonder how this situation could improve when the teacher knows and cares as much as his/her student.
One of these magister students (part-time teacher) passed a national exam and was awarded a state scholarship to study in France. The poor guy had to travel to Algiers many times to get his files sorted. Once he was told to go home because the man working at the MESRS was himself enjoying his scholarship in Canada. Anyway, the student is still in Algeria and I wonder if his scholarship wasn’t given to someone else. And as I am mentioning going abroad, I don’t know if you remember last year’s story about the Algerian university teachers who got themselves scholarships to Syria. Apparently even the Syrian universities didn’t understand what was going on and alerted the MESRS which finally stopped this practice. Well I knew two of these teachers and they told me they did it to buy garments and enjoy some vacation in beautiful Syria (ok it is ugly these days and I wouldn’t like to be there now) .
I have many other stories to tell but it looks like I wrote too much already so I will just stop here. I also think of retiring for real this time, I don’t want my students to tell me Irhal and I guess it is about time I stop playing with their future. My point here was to say that Benbouzid is of course blameable for many of the university’s illnesses but the teachers, the administrators, the students, most of us deserve the blame.