Valentina Crosato
Last updated: 26 March, 2013

Building schools for Morocco’s rural poor

“School attendance alone is not sufficient. High-quality and diversified education is our objective. Just going to school doesn’t make children educated.”

This is the belief of Teach4Morocco, a Moroccan National Non-Governmental Organization created in 2011 and based in Meknes. Its aim is to improve Morocco’s educational system, grant construction of liveable and equipped schools and provide harmonization of learning activities especially in the country’s most remote schools.

Maha Laziri, the creator of Teach4Morocco, is a young, passionate and determined Moroccan woman who wishes the best for her homeland and the future of its children.

“What we are doing is very little, but at least we can feel and see the impact of it. I had the initiative, but we are a team who is working really hard to make Teach4Morocco exist. I have never imagined myself creating an NGO and, sincerely, I wouldn’t even know where to start without them,” she said.

By her side is an action team of ten people, aged between 21 and 28 years old. They all come from different backgrounds but share the need to accomplish tangible and efficient goals for Morocco.

Teach4Morocco’s first project was the reconstruction of a school in the small village of Ichbaken, in a remote region of the Atlas Mountains where Maha used to go on holiday as a child.

After several visits to the village, she knew the people well and had become aware of the conditions under which they were living and that there was a lack of educational structures.

“(The girls) are forced to get married at an early age, they often can’t choose their partner, they don’t have rights and their role within the family unit is not recognized,” Maha said, adding that there is no possibility for self-fulfilling, development or growing opportunities.

“It’s impressive to think about what I could do in comparison to them, and also in comparison to my grandmother. These people don’t have the same chance I had. They are stuck at the same conditions as fifty years ago.”

She started to feel an urge that something had to be done, but she wasn’t sure of what. “It was thanks to my father that I understood that I could do something useful by establishing a decent educational system there.”

The organization obtained assistance and financial help from Sciences Po in Aix en Provence and, most of all, the cooperation of a hundred volunteers from the village who during twenty-one days helped reconstruct the school. They isolated the roof, erected the walls and repainted them with lively colours, equipped the school with sanitary infrastructures, and re-equipped the classrooms. In parallel, they immediately set up activities for the kids, whose enthusiasm was enormous.

Teach4Morocco recently established cooperation with the Ministry of Education and is now carrying on the construction of a new school in Ait Hamza as well as planning summer activities in Ichbaken.

The two structures will host a total of around 400 children between six and twelve years old, giving them the possibility to experience learning in a different way. The summer activities are divided into sports, arts and science and the program, called “Discovery Caravan,” is conceived to allow kids to learn by playing in a non-academic way and to trigger their curiosity.

The organization is also planning a trial project to introduce kids to elementary schools, as kindergartens don’t exist in this region. A 10-day-program called “My passport to school” will provide intensive activities to prepare children for elementary school and also let them have a first contact with the school environment.

“We want to do responsible volunteering, both ecologically and culturally speaking. We need to be very careful in terms of how we dress and how we speak. We don’t want to leave the village with an imprint. We don’t want to bring any culture hegemony. The respect of their habits is the most important thing,” said Maha.

The NGO’s dream is to develop a kind of Montessori educational system, focusing on making the learners responsible and conscious of their potential, based upon the essential interaction between teacher and student.

“For instance, we give children the keys to choose the activities they want to do. Therefore, when you give them the option you also give them the choice to discover what they like and what they are best at. Do they like football or arts? They should decide and be sovereigns of themselves. And this is what education is about: the right to choose and discover one’s self.”

Maha insists that teaching doesn’t have to be seen only in the academic perspective; playing and getting distracted is an essential part of the learning process, because “we need to free our mind in order to be able to grasp our new things.” Focusing more on activities than on traditional teaching is an intelligent but rare way of teaching, which stimulates curiosity.

Teach4Morocco does not condemn the Moroccan educational system, but recognizes its limits and most of all its lack of options for students, which makes it hard for them to understand and eventually defend their uniqueness. The major problem is that very few people complete their studies, as they easily lose many talents because of grades and “failure.” Teach4Morocco is fighting a peaceful challenge in order to bring as many people as possible till the end of their educational cycle.

“Education is helpful when it teaches to innovate, wherever you live. I would love these children to be educated to create and better their own environment and not to be obliged to move to the city.”

For Maha, today’s instruction is more urban-oriented, and doesn’t put any emphasis on the opportunities and the quality of life in the smaller villages.

“There will be a time when foreigners will stop to come to our villages and say, ‘This is what needs to be done.’”

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