Tunis — Tunisian students just attended a first-of-its kind event on careers, courses of study and how to plot their futures. The International Institute of Debate and the British Council organised the March 21st event, dubbed "Khalini Ne5tar" ("Let Me Choose").
"They were right in their choice for the title," student Wajdi al-Saidi told Magharebia. "I went through this same experience myself."
"My father asked me after I obtained my baccalaureate to do accounting, since he wanted me to take over his business," al-Saidi told Magharebia.
He explained his dilemma: "I liked gardening and I knew that this field had a future, but I caved in to my father's request to study accounting."
"I ended up dropping out after my first year," he said. "Finally, I applied to gardening again."
Another student, Chaimae Boukhris, criticised parents who direct children "to occupations that Tunisian society respects such as medicine or law".
"My mother encouraged me, unlike my father, to choose the profession I wanted," she said. "Tailoring was where I always excelled," she added.
Business leaders and representatives from international universities were on hand at the event to discuss opportunities available to young people.
Secondary school and university students were also able to meet with education counsellors, to identify future employment opportunities and learn more about academic orientation.
The seminar also tested the students' abilities with regard to proper selection methods and acquainted them with local and international universities and opportunities they could utilise to meet their goals.
Guidance counsellor Mustafa Zawali told Magharebia, "The education system is suffering heavily and this had a significant impact on the decline in the level of university education."
"We do not have advisors in the field of academic orientation, except for a hundred counsellors. The students do not make decisions until they obtain their baccalaureate," he explained.
Mokhtar Nasraoui, a mechanical manufacturer, also attended the seminar to urge young students to consider careers in his industry.
"I've told them that this profession brings money," he told Magharebia. "The important thing is to be good at what you do and respect your time commitments."
Nasraoui complained that some Tunisian families see manual occupations as lacking prestige.
"This is a backward view," he said. "In the West, carpenters and mechanics may earn more than their white collar counterparts."
The seminar was held 12 weeks ahead of the start of the baccalaureate exams in Tunisia.