By Zaina Dali
Rabat- One student reflects on citizen responsibility and taking initiative at the 1st International Conference on Education Quality.
As I walked up to the stage and took a seat on the Student Ambassadors Scheme roundtable discussion during the 1st edition of the International Conference on Education Quality, I looked at the audience and saw the keynote speakers, professors, researchers, government stakeholders, and students. At that moment, I thought to myself: “This isn’t merely a conference where students hear what older people have to say about us and to us, but a celebration of young people and an acknowledgement of the crucial role we play in the betterment of quality in education.”
Being on stage gave me and other student ambassadors the power to speak our minds and talk about issues in education that matter to us. Over the course of the conference, we discussed issues like overcrowded classes in higher education, special needs education, the privatization of education, infrastructure, job market needs, student orientation, and unemployment. However, the highlight of this experience was that we knew that we were heard and that the audience now knows what students are really capable of.
In many conferences and gatherings, the attention seems to be more focused on who’s to be blamed for the situation that education has reached. Students blame universities for lack of orientation, universities blame professors for lack of commitment, and the government is blamed for everything. While throwing the blame on others may make us feel less guilty, it doesn’t make us any less responsible.
As a young Moroccan woman, I seize any opportunity I see to make a positive social change and make my voice heard concerning what matters to me and the youth of my community. Morocco has a large youth population, but it is far away from tapping into our potential and developing the quality of education that we deserve. Moreover, I believe that if young people do not take initiatives to be part of this development, if we wait for governments to act, we are doomed to another century of low education quality. I am very passionate about education, and I believe that quality in education can only be a reality when all members of the community work together to assure that the present and future generations receive an education that expands their parameters of thinking, trains them on solving real-life issues, and empowers them to be of benefit to themselves and their country. As former US President John F. Kennedy put it: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
I do not want to be an insignificant member in my society, and I do not want to participate in any event about education that is like a graveyard: we cry and mourn, wipe our tears, go back to our normal lives, and have some tea. That is why, back in October 2017, when I saw a poster about the International Conference on Education Quality 2018 and read the description, I knew that something great was coming and I wanted to be part of it. I immediately started exploring how I could get involved.
I emailed the organizing committee of the ICEQ 2018, expressing my interest in volunteering to help in any way I can. To my surprise, I receive an immediate response from the co-chair and president of the scientific committee of the conference, Dr. Mustapha Aabi, inviting me to attend the first meeting of the newly-established Student Ambassadors Scheme for the conference.Dr. Aabi was very supportive; he trusted our capacity and believed in the work that students can put into the success of the conference. This was shown through the tasks that he delegated it to us: I had to send emails to the participants and speakers of the conference, manage the conference social media accounts, and get involved in public relations, in addition to translating documents. He and Dr. Caroline Jones, the conference co-chair, and Professor Abdelaziz Bendou, the conference chair, have been our mentors since we started conference preparations. They guided us through the whole process, and most importantly, they believed in our potential.
The conference participants were impressed by the Student Ambassadors Scheme roundtable discussion and many of them gave us very positive feedback. This was an occasion for us, the students, to show stakeholders and people in higher positions that we have a perspective to share, a voice to be heard, that we are committed, and we can be trusted with the present and future of education in our country. Moroccan young people have a voice, and we deserve to be heard.
I am a product of public education in Morocco: I’ve studied my whole life in Moroccan public schools, and I also went to a public university. I value the education I received in Morocco, and I believe that without it, I would not have reached the level that I have achieved today. After university, I benefited from a scholarship to participate in a cultural and educational exchange program in the United States. All of these experiences made me more aware of my role as a citizen in my society, as well as my role as a university student. In addition, I realized that education in Morocco has its strengths, but it is not yet where it needs to be. The solution is not necessarily to look outside our borders for answers, but rather, the solution is within our nation and resides in our people. We need to invest in students, teachers, and research for higher quality education.