Education For All Morocco: A female revolution in Morocco
Andrew Warren, Director of BTSA, reflects on a recent trip to Morocco with Education For All Morocco.
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago; the second best time is today
Last December, Ian Hunt and I had the opportunity to take part in a Study Tour to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, an hour’s drive from Marrakech. We were hosts of Education For All Morocco, a charity with the following mission statement:
Educate a boy and you educate the man; educate a girl and you educate a family, a community, a nation.
In this remote place, high up in the Atlas Mountains, where mules are the only form of transport, unless you walk, secondary education is based in the towns, for those who can get there. In the past, village communities have been willing for their boys to come down from the villages as weekly boarders, but the girls have stayed behind, and so from an education point of view, have been left behind.
This is where Education For All Morocco comes in.
Through fund raising and proceeds from their sister hotel The Kasbah, nestled at the foot of Mount Toubkal, they have started building boarding houses for the girls. Currently three boarding houses have been built and more are planned. But this is not all. For us, the most amazing thing was the way in which the charity has engaged with these remote villages, with their traditional way of life, and has persuaded them of the need to allow their girls to spend weekdays far from home in the local town. For generations, the girls have looked after the young children, the animals, and generally been another pair of hands right up until they are married. For village elders to allow them to travel anything up to 60km down to the nearest town is nothing short of miraculous.
Down in the boarding houses, which are beautifully equipped, the girls, supervised by their House Mother, are taught Arabic, French and English, alongside their Berber home tongue. They have experts in to teach them about hygiene, cooking, music, dance, science and the arts. They meet female role models who are doctors, nurses, accountants, teachers and lawyers … they are exposed to a wide range of possibilities and have even met Prince Charles, Richard Branson and Daniel Craig! Then, each weekend they return to their villagers, and this is where the real beauty of the project starts to impact. This is the silent revolution. Because as these girls return each Friday to their villages, they bring with them their new learning: safe ways to cook and maintain high standards of hygiene; the importance of deposing of rubbish responsibly; the need to look after the welfare and health of their mules (more valuable than cars this far from towns); new visions and aspirations for what they could be … and so much more.
We had the privilege to meet some of the girls and were truly humbled by their journey – both in learning and the sheer distance they travel to get to school each week. As they talked about what they hoped to become and how they planned to help their villages change and adapt to the 21st century, I was struck again by the power of a little seed, a little idea, and the impact that it can have when placed in the hands of determined and courageous people. It really is true to say, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago; the second best time is today.” This charity has started building a forest – challenging me with the truth of “better late than never”. And now this year, their first cohort of girls have started University!
For more information, check out their website: http://www.efamorocco.org/
And this is where we stayed (Daniel Craig has been a guest here): http://www.kasbahdutoubkal.com/