By Tarik Elbarakah
By Tarik Elbarakah
Morocco World News
Agadir, Morocco, December 31, 2012
Chiekh, a young student in his early twenties makes his way home after spending a long draining day at school. Pursuing his dream of having a career in communications moved him from his hometown of Guelmim – also known as the gateway of the Moroccan Sahara – and led him to the capital city of Rabat. As he continues walking, his footsteps seem to take him somewhere else rather than the university campus where he and other students coming from remote cities usually use to go after finishing school.
“We were surprised in the beginning of the season by campus officials asking us to seek another place to live,” he says as he crosses a 6:00 pm traffic jam. “We were told that the campus is going under some construction work and that we need to figure out some sort of a solution.”
Chiekh, and hundreds like himself were forced to rent modest rooms with skyrocketing prices in the neighborhood called “Elkamra,” located at the entrance of the capital, long well- known for being a “sanctuary” for those who cannot get a dorm room on campus.
As the campus housing problem erupted for the first time in early September, brokers inflamed the rent-room market. Initial prices start at six hundred Dirhams (almost 60 dollars) for a single room and it could reach MAD 2500 for a mediocre quality apartment. Many helpless students found themselves in a weak position while negotiating rents. The small number of existing rooms and huge pressure drive them to compromise. But the higher the price goes, doesn’t really mean that quality does the same.
Inside Chiekh’s room, nothing appears to be encouraging a student to study. The little light penetrating the only wrecked window available barely allows for visibility during daytime. The moisture’s invasion of the room’s ceiling is obvious, and it unleashes disturbing smells. A broken bookshelf hangs on a wall and a rusty table are the only furniture left from a previous “occupant.”
“We’re trying to get familiar with the new situation,” one of the five roommates sharing the room with Chiekh says while he’s making a plate of fried eggs. The kitchen is not separated and it literally doesn’t even exist! It’s only a place in the corner of the same 4.5 meter long room where they put some cooking-related appliances and call it a kitchen.
For some, to settle down in the “Elkamra” neighborhood means only to save the effort of repeated visits from the campus to the Souk. The latter provides a substitute to the low quality meals once delivered within the campus. The restaurants alongside “Elkifah” boulevard catch the attention of the incoming students with its affordable “Tajines” and broad beans soup. The uninterrupted zing marking the area is evident. “This neighborhood never sleeps,” says a man in his fifties who works as a parking lot guard. The noise of vehicles and 24-hour opened restaurants and cafés make it unbearable for a student looking for some tranquility to prepare for an exam.
Dire living conditions and the lack of a conducive environment for learning are not the only bumps encountered by the students. Security matters are also highly discussed. The railway bridge, which separates Medinate Al Irfane – where the majority of faculties and state-owned institutes are located, and the “Elkamra” area, was reported to be extremely risky.
Mohammed, 18, who follows his studies at l’institut supérieur de l’information et de la communication, tells his story to MWN: “It was dark and electrical poles were out of order. I was about to cross the bridge when someone grabbed me from behind and asked me to give him my laptop, amid the adrenalin rush I pushed him and I ran.”
Not all those who cross that bridge are as “lucky” as the prior case.
Reda, 21, was threatened by two armed thieves that they would take his life if he rejected giving them his cell phone. For the sake of preserving his life, he surrendered and gave away his cellular. As the rate of muggings increased, students have called for serious steps to be taken to overcome the problem that imperils the lives of many innocent people.
Some news are now circling of a potential opening of the campus sometime at the beginning of January. Until that time students will continue to carry out enormous burdens on their shoulders. As the semester is about to end, they’ll figure out whether the experience made them or broke them.