The face of the education system has drastically shifted in the relatively short time since Mohammed Ben Abbes’s election as the president of France. Secondary and higher education has been completely privatised, in an attempt to ‘restore the centrality, the dignity, of the family as the building block of society’.
Indeed, the first days of Ben Abbes’s national unity coalition have been an unanimous success, with all political commentators in agreement that no newly elected president has ever enjoyed such a ‘state of grace’.
Ben Abbes has had two major achievements already, including a dramatic drop in crime, boasting up to 90 per cent in some of the most troubled neighbourhoods. The president has had another success with unemployment, which has plummeted since being elected, largely due to women leaving the workplace en masse.
The new government has passed new large subsidies for families. Initially met with squirming on the left, the new unemployment figures have quickly seen concerns allayed.
However, perhaps the biggest changes have been felt in the education sector. Under the new system, mandatory education ended with junior school, around the age of twelve. From then on vocational training has been encouraged.
Changes have also been profoundly felt across universities, with new statutes from the Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne refusing to let non-Muslims teach.
The Obscurer spoke to one recently unemployed lecturer, Francois, to ask how the university had made him aware that his services would no longer be required.
“I received a letter signed by Robert Rediger, the new president of the university, expressing his profound regret and assured me that this was no reflection on the quality of my scholarship” replied Francois.
I ask what this means for his future prospects, is he still allowed to lecture for example?
“I am, of course, welcome to pursue my career in a secular university”, replied Francois, looking remarkably calm. “If, however, I prefer to retire, the Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne could offer me a pension, effective immediately, at a starting monthly rate of 3,472 euros, to be adjusted for inflation”.
Francois goes on to reveal he was in disbelief that he would receive, practically to the euro, what he would receive if he retired at 65, at the end of a full career. He jokes how they were willing to pay their way out of causing trouble, “no doubt they had overestimated the ability of academics of make a nuisance of themselves”, he adds with a laugh.
The Obscurer travelled to the university and noted how little about the place has changed, except for the gilded star and crescent above the doors, next to the big ‘Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III’ sign.
In the waiting room, one was welcomed by a photograph of pilgrims making their way around the Kaaba, and the offices were decorated with posters bearing hand-lettered verses from the Koran.
Francois does not recognise any of the secretaries, and they are all wearing veils. He fills in his pension there and then in disconcertingly simple fashion.
As we leave, Francois sees a friend and we part ways. Francois seemed a little unsure of what his future held, but it seems to be a feeling shared by most in the early optimistic days of Ben Abbes’s presidency.