By Mohamed Saoudi
By Mohamed Saoudi
Rabat- Teaching of the Amazigh language in Morocco has become more prevalent in recent years in comparison to other countries in North Africa. Amazigh is. Amazigh is now taught not only in primary schools, but also in some Moroccan universities. The implementation of the language in some Moroccan universities has been gradual and still has some way to go, but the efforts to broaden the teaching of Amazigh language in all Moroccan universities are becoming fruitful. While integrating the Amazigh language into the curricula of Moroccan universities has perhaps not gone as well as planned, there are both benefits and challenges.
1. The Benefits
Research on the Amazigh language and culture began during Morocco’s colonization period in the middle of the 20th Century. French anthropologists and linguists such as David Cohen, Camps, and others conducted research on both the Arabic and the Amazigh languages. After independence in 1956, there was a tendency in Moroccan universities to encourage students to research Amazigh language and culture. In the 1980s, a group of teachers at the University of Fez created a laboratory called the Research Group on Linguistics and Literature to motivate and supervise students to write BA monographs, Master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations on the Amazigh language and culture.
Now with the creation of The Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) and the institutionalization of the Amazigh language under the new Moroccan Constitution in 2011, there has been progress in the process of teaching Amazigh language not only in primary schools, but also in universities. The Royal Institute has signed agreements of co-operation and collaboration with the Ministry of Education to further develop the teaching of the Amazigh language and culture. At least three universities have since introduced the teaching of the Amazigh Language and culture. The universities of Agadir, Fez, and Oujda have each created a Department of Amazigh Studies to improve the teaching and the learning of both the language and culture.
The University of Ibn Zohar in Agadir was the first university in Morocco to integrate the Amazigh studies in the education system. The Amazigh department consists of an undergraduate program, a Master’s program, and doctoral program. The undergraduate program aims at teaching students the basics of Amazigh studies, conducting research and surveys on the Amazigh language as well as studying its socioeconomic and sociocultural environment. The program is a module system. The students have to take four modules each semester and the whole program is six semesters.
The course subjects range from history and linguistics to culture. The Master’s program aims at introducing pedagogical tools that can help students and researchers conduct significant studies of the Amazigh language and culture. The mastering of the language is also another goal of this program, and it offers students the opportunity to study different Amazigh dialects and varieties. It provides students with the necessary tools for cultural mediation, translation, and teaching of the language in both high school and at the college level. Until now, there has been no doctorate program in Amazigh studies; however, university officials and academics are working on a project to integrate Amazigh studies into doctorate programs.
There are other masters programs in other Moroccan universities that are focused on the Amazigh language and culture, such as “Amazigh Studies and National Heritage” in Rabat. The Master’s program of Arabic and Amazigh Linguistics in Tetouan is a comparative study that addresses both languages and trains students enrolled in the program in the modern theory of linguistics. The objective of this program is to provide students with theoretical and extensive courses in Arabic and Amazigh languages, ensuring a laboratory to explore and evaluate the theoretical and empirical status of modern linguistic theory, and preparing students for positions related to the field of the Arabic and Amazigh languages. The masters is designed to enrich scientific research in both the Arab and Amazigh language. It aims at preparing students for a Ph.D. program in Arabic or Amazigh linguistics, training school-teachers, and cultivating translation opportunities.
2. The Challenges
Unfortunately, the implementation of Amazigh studies in Moroccan universities is still limited due to many factors that hinder its complete integration into the curriculum. Along with the insufficiency of pedagogical tools, the lack of resources, and the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education, the lack of qualified human resources is a big challenge to the development of the departments of Amazigh Studies.
The fuzziness of the objectives of these departments is another serious challenge to its continuity. Until now, the studies offer only theoretical courses to students of the department. This pedagogical limitation needs to be remedied very soon because students after graduation face the bitter reality of the lack of positions that are linked to the domain of their specialty. The absence of the doctorate research and laboratory is also another factor that limits the number of the enrolled students in the department.
Teaching all courses in French is also a real problem that should be resolved immediately. The fact that courses are taught in French raises questions and has caused skeptics to accuse the departments of being guardians of French interests in Morocco. This has legitimized to some extent the claims of Arabophones that the programs are a racist scheme that threatens national unity.
The lack of communication between the departments of Amazigh language in Moroccan universities reduces the rate of gradual integration of the Amazigh language and culture into the curricula. The lack of the cooperation between the Ministry of Education and the IRCAM also shackles the efforts of academic officials to improve the conditions conducive to the teaching of Amazigh.
Today, Amazigh studies is a specialty in some Moroccan universities; however, the mere creation of departments of Amazigh Studies has not yet reached the objectives nor provided the expected results. Decision makers should redouble their efforts to reach the goal of widespread teaching of Amazigh language and culture.
Boukous, Ahmed. Revitalizing The Amazigh Language Stakes, Challanges,and Strategies. Rabat: Royal Institution of Amazigh Culture(IRCAM), 2011.
Carcia, Joshua Fishman and Ofelia. Hand Book of Language and Ethnic Identity: The Success-Failure Continuum in Language and Ethnic Identity Efforts. London : Oxford University Press, 2011.
Edited by Elisabeth Myers