By Oualid Bakkas
By Oualid Bakkas
Rabat – In 2003, the amazigh language (Tamazight) became an official subject in Moroccan public primary schools. 12 years since then, the second official language of the kingdom is still a weak link in the Moroccan education system, according to observers. The goal was that Tamazight would be taught in all schools in the country by 2008, but today, only 14% of primary school pupils are able to take Tamazight classes. Even classes that are offered are deficient according to some students.
We are in the mountainous village of Wad Errha, 36 km from Meknes, Houses are separated by tens of meters, people’s livelihood is from agronomy and sheep farming, and the common language is Tamazight. But the Amazigh language is not taught in the village school.
‘’Amazigh language is our land, our soul, and our identity. We will never let it go.’’ Says Bassou Ajourar, 67, one of the inhabitants of Wad Errha. Bassou says he is upset that that the 80 students of the Douar, cannot study their mother language at school.
‘’When Tamazight was first got into the Moroccan school, the policy of the ministry of education was to start teaching it in some schools in the beginning, and try to generalize it after to different schools all over Morocco, ‘’ explains Khalid Ansar, researcher in the pedagogic planning center in the Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture (IRCAM). ‘’But today, 45000 is the number of students who benefit from Tamazight classes, out of four million pupils in primary schools around the Kingdom. ‘’
Still Ansar is hopeful, adding that ‘’The generalization of Tamazight is a question of time and we can achieve that after ten years of work’’.
Yassine Attar, 19, is now a university student, but when he was in his third primary school level in Benimellal (320km from Rabat), he was one of the first Moroccan students who had the chance to study Tamazight at school. Attar says he didn’t learn much.
‘’33 letters is what I can remember and got from three years of studying Tamazight,’’ says Attar. In fact, he adds, his teacher was not an Amazigh-speaker.
‘’If they had brought us a real professor who is perfect with Tamazight, I would have been advanced in Tamazight, both writing and speaking,‘’ says Attar. ‘’But unfortunately I spent three years of my life learning it, and the result that rests in my head is 33 letters. ‘’
The ministry had no clear vision about how to teach Tamazight to pupils at schools, according to Abdellah Badou, president of the Amazigh Network for Citizenship (Azetta Amazigh). Furthermore, he says the government is simply not finding enough teachers.
‘’ The majority of Tamazight teachers were teachers of Arabic and French,’’ Badou says. ‘’Most of them weren’t Amazigh-speakers. They got a training of one week, then were sent to teach Tamazight to pupils. The result of that is that the students got nothing from teachers. ‘’
Furthermore, says Badou, the number of Tamazight teachers has actually decreased in some regions since 2003.
Noreddine Ayouche is a member of the Supreme Council of Education, Trainig, and Scientific Research (CSEFRS) which is considering how to imporve the teaching of Tamazight in Moroccan schools.
‘’We know that there are many difficulties in this issue, but we should meet challenges and do our best in order to give to Tamazight a place that is convenient to its status as official language of the country, ‘’ says Ayouche.
Ayouche says that it won’t happen overnight, but adds that the CSEFRS will not stop working until Tamazight is on the same footing as Arabic at school.
For two decades, Amazigh activists pressured the government to give Tamazight a place in the Moroccan education system.
Amina Ibno-chikh, journalist and president of the International Amazigh Congregation in Morocco, is one of the most prominent Amazigh activists. She says there’s still a long way to go until Tamazight achieves what was promised in the education system.
‘’Tamazight is the language of the land, the language of all Moroccans, and surely we will continue until we guarantee this to all people ‘’ says Ibno-chikh.
contributed reporting: Haleema Shah ( @LeleShah )
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