Back to school season can often bring unfortunate flash backs to some Moroccans who suffered a traumatic hazing in their first day at university.
Rabat – After obtaining their high school baccalaureate and making their way through a long process, Moroccan students may feel finally successful after finding a place at universities considered “prestigious.” But unfortunately, the first day in their “dream university” can often be a roller-coaster of shock, humiliation, fear, anger, and even regret when they experience university hazing.
The first day in some Moroccan universities is usually the day when older students haze new students.
Older students intimidate the newcomers and make them feel tiny and vulnerable in many ways. Hazing activities include throwing eggs and/or flour at them; drawing on their faces and bodies; forcing them to participate in humiliating challenges, games, and activities that often require physical effort, like running while blindfolded.
Hazing can even go further into assaulting, beating, or isolating a person.
Hazing, or “bizutage” as it is called in Morocco, is considered a brutal initiation ceremony that has passed down through generations since French colonization began in 1912.
At first, hazing was a well-known practice in the military, where veterans hazed recruits. Even then, the ritual had deviated from its original meaning. Instead of being a way of initiating, welcoming, and helping recruits to overcome their fears and hesitations by integrating them into the military, it became a practice of terror.
Hazing was embedded in our culture a long time ago. The practice started in Greek times, when Plato’s academy school was founded back in 387 B.C. It was called “pennalism,” which is defined as “a system of mild oppression and torment practiced upon first year students” according to Collins Dictionary.
An expert in psychoanalysis of Moroccan and Arab society, Dr. Jaouad Mabrouki explained to Morocco World News that this “system” was a stage that a person should go through in order to prove his strength to join certain groups or simply enter adulthood.
But Mabrouki added, “Nowadays, a freshman is not forced to show his/her physical strength, as long as succeeding in the baccalaureate exams and being eligible to join that university is a solid proof of his/her strength and engagement.”
But since mental strength is not taken into account by senior students, many Moroccan students have been victims of hazing. The practice has gone viral through universities and campuses, leaving horrifying and unforgettable flash backs.
“The reason that had [caused] me to work so hard in my baccalaureate was actually in order to join a prestigious school, but unfortunately from day one I was so shocked and saw my dreams getting crushed in a glance,” said Imane, who is 23 years old.
“I remember like if it was yesterday how a bunch of students throw eggs on me, to the point that a student actually slapped me while doing so. Also, I was isolated in an empty class, and forced to repeat humiliating words with a camera on my face. I felt weak and terrified,” she said angrily.
Othman, 22, was another victim of this “intolerable” yet pervasive ritual practice. “Hazing can be a tough thing even for guys. I remember that I was humiliated and forced to take off my T-shirt while students were pouring water on me. I felt so uncomfortable,” he said.
What people often do not take into consideration is the fact that this heritage phenomenon can usually impact terribly the well-being and psychological health of freshmen, who are entering a new stage in their life with plenty of hopes and expectations.
Moreover, hazing can easily turn students from the same university into enemies, which can even make it a challenge to attend class on a daily basis, due to serious misunderstanding, communication issues, fights, feelings of hate and revenge, and other remaining issues.
“I remember how hazing was a very childish event, even for the freshman I was. It was all about controlling and bullying a group of vulnerable scared new students. And these sordid actions made us enemies inside that university even after many years,” said FathAllah, 23.
Mabrouki says of this “sordid” behavior, “The older students who often organize humiliating hazings are a product of their past experiences and can usually be suffering from psychological disorders. Also they are doing it as a revenge and to feed and satisfy their sadism in order to bolster their own sense of superiority.”
He added “I consider often the hazing as a very dangerous practice, specially when the freshman is being humiliated, which can lead to serious psychiatric disorders. Therefore, these activities and rituals must be managed by the university’s administration to ensure the safety of new students.”
Although hazing can be dangerous, many people notice that some of the latest hazing events in Moroccan universities have become less violent and more welcoming. It can even be a “bonding experience.”
“After hearing terrible things about the hazing, I was expecting the worst. But it turned [out] to be so amusing, the students were very kind to us, they took us on a tour into our new university, then they put on some music and we started dancing around, they even made it looks (sic) like an Indian Holi festival. It was an experience that I would love for any student to experience,” said Amina, a new freshman.
Indeed, hazing can often be a lovely experience when the student community is conscientious about its huge responsibility and impact on not only the well-being and psychological health of new students but also their interaction, coexistence, and even educational performance.
Still, enforcing public policies to ensure a safe and respectful hazing is a must, in order to prevent any future humiliating hazing events that will leave horrifying and lasting flashbacks.