Marrakech - The Moroccan NGO Education for All (EFA) was formed to help young girls living in rural areas have the chance to pursue their education.
Marrakech – The Moroccan NGO Education for All (EFA) was formed to help young girls living in rural areas have the chance to pursue their education.
However, many of them have to give up their schooling to help their families in the tough working conditions in the Atlas Mountains, particularly during the winter months when roads can be impassable. Illiteracy amongst rural girls remains very high, as much as 80% according to EFA.
The NGO works under the belief that if you educate women you will ultimately educate the whole family, as the girls become mothers and pass on what they have learned to their children. EFA identified a need to provide accommodation for girls close to where their schools are located. Colleges in urban areas were too expensive and too far for rural families So secure houses with dormitories were built near to schools. such as Dar Asni, Dar Asni II, Dar Ouirgane and Dar Tinmal.
It used to be unheard of for rural girls to have a chance at a college education and the chance of a professional career, such as medicine. They were, and many still are, tied to the isolated rural communities where they were born. When the first project, a boarding house in Asni was undertaken by EFA in 2007, the aim was to provide 36 girls living in the High Atlas mountains with secondary education so that they had the chance to go on to college.
In September 2009 EFA opened a second boarding house in a remote area of the High Atlas, 100km from Marrakech in the town of Talaat n’Yacoub. This provides the opportunity of college education for 36 more girls, who would otherwise not have had this opportunity. Last year there were five girls who, as a result of being in EFA houses for the full 5 years of secondary and lycée, are now at university. It only costs EFA 1000 Euro to fund a girl for a whole year at an EFA house near the school which, given that illiteracy rates for girls in rural Morocco is estimated to be as high as 80%, is a vital investment.
Apart from a paid housemother and cook, there are no administrative expenses as the EFA committee and staff work on a voluntary basis, allowing 100% of all donations to go directly to the project.
EFA was the brainchild of Mike McHugo, owner of the famed Kasbah Toubkal. Mike and his brother Chris renovated the Kasbah, with its stunning views of surrounding mountains and Jebel Toubkal, together with the local community as partners. This led them naturally to work on projects to help the local Amazigh mountain communities.
In 2013 the EFA committee hit on the idea of a bicycle race from Marrakech to Oumkaimeden. Kasbah Toubkal often arranges bicycling events in Toubkal National Park. The Atlas Etape is a 40 km dash to the foot of Oumkaimeden, with a body crunching punishing 30 km climb up to Oumkaimeden at 2426 meters at the summit. Then the joy of a 70 km downward sprint all the way back to Marrakech with medals for the first frontrunners to make it back. The 2013 Atlas Etape saw a heavy fog draw in on Oumkaimeden, preventing some riders from getting back to Marrakech for safety reasons.
This year, with temperatures at a hot 35 degrees, this is unlikely to be a problem. The race is already attracting professional bicycle racers, a chance to visit Marrakech and a great opportunity to support a worthwhile cause. Three older participants are bicycling from England to Marrakech to take part in the event, and they have already raised over £80,000 for EFA. They call themselves the “fat dads on bikes” after a much-loved UK TV series, The Fat Ladies, who used to ride motorbikes to different locations to do their cooking programs on TV. They were a wonderfully irreverent pair.
Her Majesty’s Ambassador Clive Alderton will be on hand to present medals when the tired winners roll in at the Etape’s final destination. The Ambassador has recently become a patron of the EFA. Later on in the evening, there will be a fundraising dinner which is open to all, and some of the girls from EFA’s houses in Asni and the university will attend, which will be a great opportunity for friends and supporters to meet them. It should be a great evening.
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