A few weeks ago I went to Morocco to visit the project we support there, the Education For All boarding houses for girls, the project recently visited by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as described in an earlier article in this newsletter. I had not been there since 2011 and wow! – what amazing progress has been made in the intervening 8 years! I thought I had kept up to date with developments there through reading their newsletter, but seeing it in the flesh is an entirely different thing and I was VERY impressed.
In 2011 there was one boarding house, enabling 30 girls from rural villages in the High Atlas Mountains to attend collège, the first stage of secondary education, by providing them with a safe home within walking distance of the school. Now there are five houses, with a sixth under construction, providing a home and supportive environment for 200 girls and so enabling them to continue their education, not only for the three years of collège from 11-14, but also for the three years of lycée from 15-17 years of age. Altogether, since its founding in 2008, more than 300 girls have gone through the houses, and an impressive 270 are still in education, with some now at university and one girl, who I remember well from my visit in 2011, in the second year of a Master’s degree at Marrakech University.
I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Mike, one of our local partners and one of the founders of Education For All, and Latifa, the housemother of the first boarding house and now in overall charge of all the houses – she is the person who looks after volunteers when they are on their placements. I also met some of the girls, although some of the younger girls had gone home to their village for the holiday while the older ones were very busy revising for and sitting their mock exams, which they were taking very seriously indeed. I also met the housemothers of three of the other houses, Khadija, Aicha and Badiaa and we spent a very productive afternoon sitting in the sunshine on the roof terrace of one of the houses discussing all their ideas for the kind of help and support they would welcome from volunteers – ideas which have now been incorporated into the support plan for this project.
Three of the boarding houses are in the small town of Asni, and I visited all of them. Asni 1, the original house, is for 11-14 year old girls attending the collège in the town; Asni 2 and Asni 3 are for 15-17 year old girls attending the lycée. I also visited the house at Ouirgane, a 20 minute taxi ride away along a beautiful valley up a little higher into the mountains, where 36 11-14 year olds live and attend the collège just across the road. The 5th house, and the 6th which is just being built, are in a more isolated town higher in the mountains – as we don’t envisage placing volunteers there at the moment I did not visit them on this trip.
I stayed, as I did in 2011, at Villa de l’Atlas, home of the friendly Ramoun family, where I immediately felt at home and particularly enjoyed the wonderful Moroccan food I was served every evening. I also went to see a newly opened small hotel directly opposite Villa de’l’Atlas, Riad Vallée Verte, which we shall also offer as a possible accommodation option for volunteers – it also offers very comfortable accommodation and the owner speaks good English.
In the past, Education For All have only accepted female volunteers, due to the girls’ cultural background. However Latifa has been impressed with the volunteers people and places have sent in the past; she fully trusts our checking procedures for prospective volunteers and is now happy to accept volunteers of either sex sent to EFA by us – so this project is now open to male volunteers on their own and to married couples as well as to female volunteers. Also, in the past it was specified that volunteers must have a good level of spoken French – this is because French is the main European language spoken in Morocco – English is their fourth language after Berber, Arabic and French. However the older girls learn English at school and speak it impressively well, as do Latifa and Khadija, the house mother at Asni 3. They all watch English films and generally find English easier than French. The other housemothers are also keen to improve their level of spoken English. So Latifa and the other housemothers now feel a volunteer does not need to be able to speak French to make a useful contribution here, as long as they are happy to work mainly with the older girls and the housemothers themselves. This is good news for us – we can now place non-French speakers and male volunteers on this project in addition to females and French speakers as in the past.
This is such an inspirational project which is doing such good work. Volunteers we have placed here in the past are spoken of so highly, and we would love to send more – in fact we already have three going through the matching procedure. Follow this link to see what volunteer skills are needed on this project – could you be the next people and places volunteer at the EFA boarding houses? https://travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/projects/257/Education-Support-for-Girls-in-Morocco-(ED)