Rabat - November 20 is World Children’s Day, but 11.5 million Moroccan children are far from celebrating. From poverty to child marriage, illiteracy, and even malnutrition, Morocco’s youngsters continue to face major obstacles to a dignified and safe future.
Rabat – November 20 is World Children’s Day, but 11.5 million Moroccan children are far from celebrating. From poverty to child marriage, illiteracy, and even malnutrition, Morocco’s youngsters continue to face major obstacles to a dignified and safe future.
Like all countries in the world, Morocco celebrates on November 20 of each year World Children’s Day. While this day is an opportunity to review the efforts undertaken for the development and support of this age group, it is also an occasion to sound the alarm on many scourges that plague their living conditions.
In the last decades, Morocco has taken a number of initiatives in respect to the international conventions it has ratified. From the enshrinement of the fundamental rights of children in Article 32 of the 2011 Constitution, which included the right to basic education, equal legal protection and equal social consideration, to the launch of the National Action Plan for Children (PANE) and a National Executive Program for Integrated Public Policy for Child Protection.
However, the threat of poverty, violence, illiteracy, and child labor continues to hover over this demographic category, mainly in rural areas. Overall, the transition from legal texts signed on paper to a real implementation on the ground still leaves a lot to be desired according to the latest statistics unveiled by the High Commission for Planning (HCP) on the occasion of World Children’s Day.
41.9% of Children are Uneducated
While the whole world celebrates Children’s Day, it is necessary to recall the huge number of children in Morocco who are out of school.
While the national dropout rate recorded a significant decrease during 2016-2017, much work remains to be done, as the illiteracy rate for children aged between 10 and 18 years is 4.8 percent against 32.2 percent for the general population, according to HCP.
Young girls are more likely to be illiterate than boys, representing 5.9 percent against 3.8 percent of illiterate boys. Children in rural areas are more exposed to illiteracy, with 8.5 percent, 4.7 percent of whom are girls, while in urban areas the rate reaches only 1.9 percent.
The enrollment rate of children aged 7 to 12 is 95.1 percent nationally, with 97.8 percent in urban areas and 91.6 percent in rural areas. This rate is 95.7 percent for boys and 94.4 percent for girls in both rural and urban areas.
38.8 percent of children in 2014 have primary education, while 14.8 percent of children have passed secondary school. Only 4.5 percent of Moroccan children have a high school education in 2014. 19.8 percent of boys compared to 19 percent of girls received secondary and/or higher education. In urban areas, almost one-quarter of children have secondary education (24.3 percent), compared to only 13.1 percent in rural areas.
45,800 Girls Married Under 18
All countries are concerned by child marriage, but the Moroccan situation is particularly serious as the cases are very numerous. According to the HCP, 48,291 minors were married in 2014, which represents about 0.8 percent of the population.
Unsurprisingly, it is a predominantly female phenomenon, with 94.8 percent girls versus 5.2 percent boys, as well as a rural one at 55.9 percent against 44.1 percent in urban areas.
At the time of the last general census of the population, 2.3 percent of these married minors girls were divorced and 0.6 percent were widowed. And despite their young age, no less than 4,369 children are heads of households, 81.5 percent of them boys and 61.6 percent of them living in urban areas.
Child Labor in Morocco
Morocco is still losing its battle against the employment of children. According to the HCP, 36.9 percent of children are engaged in the labor market in rural areas against 14.9 percent in urban cities. 36.6 percent of children who work are boys, while girls represent 14.9 percent.
In 2014, nearly 69,000 children aged between 7 and 15 were engaged in economic activities. The major sectors where children get involved are agriculture in rural areas and handicraft activities in urban areas.
In 2015, HCP said that 193,000 children aged 7 to 17 had worked or were still taking part in unsafe jobs. This number represented almost 60 percent of all employed children.
According to the Moroccan NGO Insaf Association, at least 80,000 children are working in Moroccan homes. The vast majority of these children are aged under 15, according to the association. The organization reported that the children are forced to work due to poverty and illiteracy.
Insaf’s president, Bouchra Ghiati, said during a World Day Against Child Labour press conference that “the situation needs a lot of will to stop child exploitation.” She added that child labor deprives the children of their chance to take part in the school system and ”to play and make friends” as any other child.
Article 143 of the 2004 Code of Work states that it is illegal for a child under the age of 15 to work.
1.5% of Children Are Disabled
In 2011, nearly 28.8 children per 1,000 live births died before reaching the age of one, and 30.5 per 1,000 died before reaching the age of five.
In 2014, the number of children with disabilities stood at around 169,000 (1.5 percent of the child population), with 55.2 percent of them boys and 54.6 percent living in urban areas.
In the same year, 660 children were homeless, 30.2 percent of whom were girls and two thirds were in cities (73.6 percent).