Rabat -"Reading is the practice of freedom, which we rarely walk away from without a scar; however everyone can experience this feeling that helps us grow. It sets us free from our mental prisons and opens our views towards the world," said Youssef Moutaoukil, student at the Ecole National de l’industrie Mineral (ENIM), Rabat.
Rabat –“Reading is the practice of freedom, which we rarely walk away from without a scar; however everyone can experience this feeling that helps us grow. It sets us free from our mental prisons and opens our views towards the world,” said Youssef Moutaoukil, student at the Ecole National de l’industrie Mineral (ENIM), Rabat.
Moroccans deepened the slot between them and knowledge. The Moroccan education system does not encourage free readings. Parents are busy playing their roles. Society is cynical towards reading outside the curricula. This situation conjured studies that confirm the ugly truth.
The Social, Economic and managerial Studies Center published a study in the magazine of Economia (February 2010), revealing that every Moroccan spends an average of MAD 1 per year on books while the international standard is MAD 25. And in the same year, the Ministry of Culture said that Moroccans read about 2.5 books per year while 1 out of ten does not read at all.
In an attempt to reconcile readers with print, Association des Jeunes Citoyens (AJC) has launched the ‘public mini libraries’ initiative. Given the fact that books are unaffordable and the invasion of peoples’ lives and minds by ‘electronization,’ civil society confirms that this initiative is the hope of this country. The association seeks to shift public attention to the possibility of enjoying concrete and tangible knowledge free of charge. It is a very original step towards spreading the culture of reading in Morocco.
The idea is to erect white house-shaped boxes in closed/private residential areas that have at least 100 readers per housing block. The boxes will be placed near people’s houses in closed areas to ensure safety and security 24/7. The two-shelf box is large enough to hold in 100 books. The only condition is that readers must trade in one book for another under the motto: ‘leave a book, take a book’.
‘ktabi ktabek’ (my book is your book) is a long-term project by which AJC is attempting to offer an alternative to readers who need to pay for a membership card to enter a library, read books on the spot, or return them before a deadline. This is a project done by the people and for the people. It is an open invitation for parents and children to read just around the corner from their homes.
So far the white mini-libraries have been installed in three residential areas in Casablanca, where the first mini library was inaugurated on 28th January 2013, in addition to Mohamadia, Rabat, Fez, Beni Mellal and the efforts are ongoing to install them in Tangier and Agadir as well.
In Rabat, the Ecole National de l’industrie Mineral (ENIM) hosted the event. Youssef Moutaoukil, told Morocco World News: “I had the idea of starting a reading club in an engineering school and calling it the ‘book readers’ where students will be able to discuss a book they read. However, according to a survey that we recently organized at school, students face two difficulties in terms of choice and affordability, which is why we decided to establish mini libraries inside the school.”
“Therefore, we reached out to the president of the AJC, Mr. Bassim Khaber, who has demonstrated a remarkable sense of collaboration and support, and who has contributed to sensitizing students about the importance of reading,” he added.
Being selective in the distribution of the mini libraries is very wise. But, I wish that AJC and people with similar ideas would find a way to mainstream this concept. Maybe if the project took place in popular and down-at-the-heels places, there is a risk of altering the purpose of the box to a shop for nuts and sweets and the books may be the bags for the nuts or easily find their way to used book shops. But if AJC targeted prisons, orphanages, group houses, Dar Taliba, women centers, and houses of the elderly, the residents of these places would find a very rewarding outlet.
These initiatives are steps in the right direction. Moroccans should appreciate such programs and the media should spread the word, together with people. Education in Morocco is running down the hill, if it has not yet reached the bottom and is digging still deeper. Moroccans are intellectual and civilized enough to hold a book and read in public places without being mocked for showing off, or as smarty and carefree. Reading is not a sign of prestige. It is an ordinary habit that needs to be accomplished in the simplest of ways.
Reading does not simply contribute to intellectual development; it also represents Morocco at its best. It is never too late to grab a book and read. Reading is not age bound. Why do we consider eating an act that could be done at all ages and not reading? Because we always remember to feed our stomachs and we forget to feed our brains.
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