Tunisian School Uniform

Figure 1.--Here we see a primary school in Ferryville probably in the early 1950s. The children seem dressed as might boys in france at the time. Most of the boys wear smocks. I'm not sure about the school's name, but it was "près de l'église" which I think means near the church. This class looks to have both French and Tunisian boys. Notice the lady teacher.

Tunisia is a North African country colonized by Frabce in the 19th century. We have only limited information on Tunisian schools at this time. We do not know to wgat extent Tunisian children ttebded the French schools. Not do we know how common the medrasas attached ti the mosques were, Tujisia has a fascinating history. We haveno information on schools until the French colonial era. HBC at this time only has information on the French colonia era. We have collected a few photographs from individual schools. Tunisian families seem reluctant to send girls to the French schools. We have not yet found any information on the independence era.


The ancient Mediterranean coast was colonized by the Phoenicians. Their colony at Carthage near modern Tunis in part because of its location emerged as one of the graet power centers of the ancient world (6th century BC). Carthage was defeated by Rome in the Punic Wars (3rd century BC). After Rome's defeat of Carhage, the area of modern Tunisia was occupied by a series of invaders. We have no information on schools until the arrival of the French in the modern era. Presumavly education followed the general pattern of the imperial power. Rome destroyed Carthage, but the area became an imortant Roman province. The climate was different at the yime and was an important grain producing area. With the fall of Rome (5th century AD), the area was seized by the Vandals and then the Byzantines. The Arabs conquered tghe province (7th century) and the population was converted to slam. Aran Tunisia flourished under the Berber Hafsid Dynasty (13-16th century). The Ottomons seized Tirkey (1579), but gradually became practically independent under the Turkish govenors (beys). It evolved into a pirate base as one of the Barbary States. The beys borrowed heavily and the Europeans powers (British, French, and Italians) began to intervene. (1869). France seized Tunisa (1881), despite Italian protests. This created aong standing dispute beten France abd Utaly. A French appointed governor ruled the country with the bey as a titular authority. After the German defeat of France, French officials in Tunisia remained loyal to the Vichy Government. The Allied Torch invasion (November 1942), did not reach the Tunisia ports before the Germans intervened. The Germans fought tenaciously against much larger Allied forces for several months before surrendering (May 1943). Free French authorities then attempted to restablish French authority. As is common for the Middle East and North Africa, we have been able to find some information about European colonial schools. Tuninisian nationalist sentimets grew in strength. Anti-French riots occurred (1952). France ininitiated reforms including rural elections. France granted independence to Tunisia (1956). A republic was declared (1957) and Habib Bourguiba was elected the first president. we have little information about Tunisian post-independence schools. We do not fully understand this dichotomy at this time.


As far as we can tell, the only schools in Tunisia at the time that France seized control of the country wre the madrasas attached to the mosques. Instruction there was basically confined to learing to ewad and write and memirizing the Koran. The madrassas would also have been open only to boys. Ilitracy wa very high before the arrival of the French and virtully universal among women. We do not know at this time how the madrasas were affected by French rule (1881-1956) or by independnce (1956).

French Colonial Schools

French officials required all Tunisian schools to attend schools. This is why many Tunisians today speak French. It is their second language, In the secondary schools French is currently used. In Tunis and Bizerte child labor was prohibited, including the Tunisian children under 13 years old. In the rurl areas, these laws were not strictly enforced. Unlike Algeria, there was no war for independence. As a result, as with Morocco, France has better relations today then with Algeria.

Pied Noir

The Pied Noir were the French and other Europeans living in North Aftrica during the colonial era. According to a Tunisian Pied Noir site " Pied Noir Bizerte ", the Pied Noir population in Bizerte was composed of 60 percent French, 30 percent Italians, anf the rest were Jews or other nationalities. Most of the Pied Noir in Tunisia were concentrated in the cities, especially the ports of Bizerte and Tunis. It is interesting that there are quite a few Pied Noir internet sites, not only for Tunisia, but Libya, Algeria, and Morocco as well. A French reader tells us, "The raison why , we can find a lot of Pied Noir sites with school information is that many of those people who returned to France are now very nostalgic about their former homes and ther schools. Many former inhabitants are now searching for former friends and classmates. Strangely such sites for actual French schools are much less common. I don't know why , but the French aren't very fond to show their family and school photos. appears to be a part of the French mentality to keep family maters private."


We are not yet sure about gender trends in Tunisian schools. Many of the photographs we have found are all boys. These were presumably from single gender schools. We suspect in the cities there were boys and girls schools. U\In smaller villages there would be fewer French children as well as smaller schools. As in France itself, smaller villages could not support two single gender schools. Thus we see boys and girls in these schools, but usually more boys than girls. We suspect that Tunisian parents were less willing to send their girls to school than French parents. This is not surrising, at least early uin the coonial era as the mosque madrasahs only educated boys. We are not yet sure what occurred in the schools after independence as far as gender is concerned.

Independent Tunisia


Schoolwear in Tunisia during the French colonial era seems similar to that worn in France, at least at the French colonial schools. A French reader tells us, "Unfortunatly I have never visited Tunisie. From what I can tell, however, boys school styles at schools in Tunisia and other French colonies were very similar to the styles worn in the metropol." Abd we do see boys wearing smocks in the French colonial schools. They mostly seem to be the front-buttoning lab coat-style smocks.

Individual Schools

All the individual Tunisian schools we know about at this time are schools during the French colonial era which began in the 1880s. We have photographs from several different schools, although we do not know the names of all the schools are very much about them. We note an unidentified French school at Ferryville. The image we have was taken about 1949-50. Another school was the Ecole Saint Joseph, also located at Ferryville. We have a potograph of the CE1 class. We do not yet have any information on Tunisian national schools since independence (1956).

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Created: 4:17 AM 4/8/2005
Last updated: 8:19 AM 2/24/2013