In the first lesson, we worked on introducing ourselves and our lives and our dreams: 100% of the Lycée students at the EFA boarding houses went to University last year, which is a real credit to House Mothers and EFA. The range of ambitions was brilliant – from Mountain Guide, to Nurse or Doctor, to Journalist or Astronomer. In the second lesson we began to work on the notion of Culture which is a common thread in the syllabi. Having established what we meant by that, each student chose a topic to pursue: popular topics included traditional music, costume, festivals, food. We used the computer suite to research. I started each lesson with an objective and some key vocabulary. As I listened to them talk, I was able to pick up on grammatical issues they were having problems with and do some work around that too. We wrote a little every lesson in the exercise books provided for volunteers, so that students can remember what they have done with us.
In the second week, Dianne and found ourselves whisked away by the House Mothers who had arranged for us to go with them to a presentation by 2nd Year Bacc students at the Lycée for International Women’s Day. It was a brilliant and fascinating experience: students had created drama, a film and a debate around women’s lives and their rights. House mothers, maintenance staff, doctors and teachers were presented with certificates. I was introduced to one of their lovely English teachers. Khadija and I thought we might seize the moment and get the girls to research and present something around International Women’s Day – it also ties in with themes in the Bacc Syllabus. I gave the students the choice of carrying on with Culture or moving on to this. The Bacc students were keen to move on and most of the Common Core students wanted to carry on with what they were doing.
We read the factsheet and profiles of inspirational women from the IWD website and used their own ideas and Khadija’s link from Morocco News to research historical and contemporary role models. For both themes, students began to work towards presentations in poster form or dramatized interviews for television. We were working towards a big presentation in the third week, after school when the news came in that Morocco would be closing schools and shutting down international flights. I sent a summary of what I had planned to do next with Khadija and will attach any resources to this.
At lunchtimes we painted plant identifiers: Khadija is a keen gardener and her mission was to label them in Arabic, French and English. The garden is lovely – a space for everyone to relax and learn. It was a pleasure to chop food too in the kitchen supervised by Latifa and housekeeper Khadija. Meals are absolutely wonderful – traditional Moroccan cooking. They had much fun teaching me Berber, Amazigh and Arabic. “Ish, ish” for “eat, eat” and “Szvwin” for “delicious”…at least that is what I think they were teaching me!
We really only had one weekend free, Mike McHugo very kindly invited us stay at the Kasbah de Toubkal which is an amazing experience and well worth a visit. Really beautiful, breathtaking and so friendly. We met up with Chris McHugo there and learnt more about EFA and the Kasbah’s role in the community.
The highlight of my experience was working with the students and Khadija and her team. As well as eating in the garden with them! My memory is full of laughter, and light and birdsong.
Sadly, our volunteering was shadowed by the rapidly developing coronavirus emergency. In our first week we persuaded girls and staff to elbow bump and foot greet. By the second weekend it became clear we would probably have to leave, and with the announcement of school closure which would include all the boarding houses, we realised it was the most responsible thing we could do in the circumstances. I think the last thing you want to be is any kind of liability to your hosts or their country in a situation like this.
Finally, or rather au revoir Inshallah, my thanks to Khadija and her lovely team and all the students for making me feel so at home and so welcome. Their work there is so inspiring and it is a pleasure to work with and alongside them.
If you feel you could offer remote support to this project while we are unable to travel due to the coronavirus pandemic please email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to learn more about volunteering at the Education For All boarding houses read here https://travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/projects/257/Education-Support-for-Girls-in-Morocco-(ED)