By Hamza Mounhi
By Hamza Mounhi
Morocco World News
Ahmedabad, India, March 25, 2013
A few days ago, government officials announced the start of the National dialogue with the civil society. As members of the media sphere, we decided to start our own dialogue with our own means. The objective is to meet rising NGOs, understand their mission and try to grasp the main innovation they are bringing to the ground to solve social issues.
Today, we are introducing to you Teach4Morocco; “a start-up NGO” with a holistic approach to improve the state of education in Morocco. Maha Laziri, the founder and the current president will explain to us the objectives and visions of Teach4Morocco.
MWN: Tell us a little bit more about Teach4Morocco?
Maha Laziri:Teach4Morocco is an NGO which has the mission to help making the Moroccan educational system better. As a start, we are focusing mainly on rural areas. We are a group of university students that are willing to make an impact on the ground as we firmly believe that education is the way forward.
MWN: What’s your track record so far, any achievements to date?
Maha Laziri: We decided to start our projects by targeting remote areas which suffer from insufficient schooling infrastructure. Our first project consisted of reconstructing a school and in the village of Ichbaken (the central Moroccan high atlas).
It was indeed a humbling experience as we went through tough days with intensive work but smoothened by the spirit of cooperation and team work between our volunteers, villagers and teachers. We noticed that at the end, there was a shift in the perception of “school” from as a “foreign” institution in the village to a more inclusive perception. The School of Ichbaken is more perceived now as a “community” institution that the children, the young men and women and even the elders have participated in innovating. That is our biggest achievement.
MWN: That’s indeed a big achievement. Do you have any objectives for this year to keep up on this track?
Maha Laziri: We are a start-up NGO. As we go to the field, we discover new needs and try to expand our structure accordingly. This year, the village of Ait Hamza suggested working with us on a project to build new classrooms and sanitary infrastructure. We also have a French partner, Interface IEP, which accepted to participate with us on the project.
Last year, some volunteers organized pedagogical activities for the children. The children loved it. This year, we are going back to Ichbaken to organize the first full-time “discovery camp.” The idea is to develop games that will trigger kids’ curiosity in science, arts and sports. The organization of the discovery camp is in line with our philosophy of enabling access to equal opportunities and the expansion of choices for Moroccan kids. By making the learning experience friendly and enjoyable, we want to help these children discover their potential and better understand their future academic choices.
MWN: What’s the main issue you faced during the preparation of your summer camps and once on the ground?
Maha Laziri: Our projects are very small yet they require a lot of efforts from our side. It was not easy to prepare for Ichbaken as the toughest challenge was to transport construction materials to the village. The transport infrastructure is relatively hostile in the region and it is hard for any type of transportations to carry heavy cement bags all at once. It took a long time to transport all the construction material we needed.
We were however very happy of people’s engagement to our cause. To be honest with you, there are some people who helped us a lot and without them we would have never done it. I would like to warmly thank two teachers from the school of Ichbaken who stayed with us while they were on vacation and helped carrying heavy cement bags, stones, etc. We owe them so much and respect them for all they did.
MWN: You are a non-profit organization delivering free of charge services, I can assume that for all your activities you rely on donations, are Moroccan people generous when it comes to supporting education?
Maha Laziri: It is hard for us to judge based on our fundraising efforts for the first project. We were still new and had no significant track record. We didn’t apply for any aid or donations.We were lucky to find a like-minded partner Interface IEP, we cooperated together in the planning and financing of the project. The fundraising was done by Interface. This year, we are hoping to get in kind support from cement and paint companies.
MWN: As far as I understand, now you are focusing all your efforts on rebuilding the physical infrastructure. I assume that it is financially-intensive and time consuming yet essential. Could you tell us quickly about your long term vision? Will there be any shift in the future?
Maha Laziri: There will be no shift but rather an expansion. We are currently adding new programs: “Discovery camp” in the summer and “my passport to school” for the younger kids joining school for the first time and who had no access to kindergarten. To sum it up, we aim at targeting the issues of: school infrastructure, pre-school education and interactive education. We are also working on adding an e-learning program, which will be launched soon, to address the urban population as well.
MWN: Your NGO is working with rural people in the very remote areas of Morocco; tell us more about their perception of education
Maha Laziri: It is hard however to give a simple one layer answer to your question as rural people don’t all have the same ideology and economic status. Yet, we noticed in the case of Ichbaken that no girl has ever had made it to junior high school in Toundout. Education is an investment and the parents are asking if it is worth the effort.
One day, we asked some kids about their future professional ambitions and were surprised to see that most of them want to become” Transit”/ van driver. With all the due respect to this profession, but we sensed that day the importance of social conditioning: for these kids, the example of the richest and most important person in the village is the young man with no education but a driving license. Therefore education is at some instances, perceived as a worthless investment.
MWN: Starting from your field experience, what’s the key issue that is stopping the development of rural education?
Maha Laziri: I am not sure. I have neither the authority nor the experience to answer this question from a large scale perspective. But given the fact that the whole system is on crisis, rural schools share the same challenges as urban public schools. In rural remote areas, these challenges are however transcended by the lack of adequate infrastructure, the issue of acceptance of the teachers among local communities and difficulties of pursuing education after primary school. Coming back to the example of Ichbaken, the school there is lucky because it has a team of very motivated teachers and the villagers trust them.
Teachers are easily accepted as members of the community, which might not be the case elsewhere. However, when kids make it to the 6th grade, only some of the rich go to junior high school. Our projects are still in infancy, I hope that as we grow up, our understanding of these matters will get more accurate as I believe it is the first step toward finding long lasting solutions for these complex issues.
MWN: You are absolutely right. Well Maha, on behalf of Morocco World News, I would like to thank you for your time and wish you all the best for your next projects
Maha Laziri: thank you.
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