Education is, and has always been, the key to freedom. However, education is not something that has always been available to many groups of people across the planet. So when one man had an idea to assist in the education of a disadvantaged group in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, it planted the seed of hope in many girls who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to attend school. Kayti Denham reports.
Moroccon girls can go to school, thanks to a volunteer program.
Morocco, 18 July 2011. John Wood is the founder of an organization called “Room to Read”, a worldwide initiative that assists economically disadvantaged groups in overcoming the vicious cycle of poverty created by lack of education. When people cannot afford education, they are powerless to gain the skills required to break away from subsistence or impoverished lives.
In 2004, while John Wood was staying at the Kasbah du Toubkal, a beautiful mountain resort high in the Atlas Mountains, he met Kasbah’s Mike McHugo with whom he struck a chord. The two recognized that between them they had the resources to create an organization that could help the young girls of the High Atlas Mountains receive an education.
Girls from this area are typically obliged to remain in their family homes in remote villages far from any educational centre. Their parents cannot afford the costs of the lodgings that would allow them to attend schools, and more than often they do not wish for their daughters to be so far away. Sadly, the value of having female children in the home is perceived as far greater to their parents than the high cost of sending them away to school.
Girls continue to be marginalised in many societies around the world. We can all do our part to help change this.
“Education for All” launched its first project in 2007, which was the building of a dedicated boarding house that provided specific care to girls between 16-19 years of age who left their High Atlas village homes to study at government-run schools in the town of Asni. The pilot project enabled 36 teenagers enter secondary education level where they were taught according to the Moroccon education curricula.
In 2009 a second boarding house was completed in the town of Talaat n’ Yacoub. Again the facility can house up to 36 girls who can look forward to receiving an education without having to travel for miles and be a financial burden to their families. With access to education, they could then complete middle school and progress on to college.
Girls at 'Education for All' in the town of Talaat n`Yacoub love the extra classes taught by volunteers.
The guiding principal in educating girls of this area is the belief that an investment in education for girls would allow the acquired knowledge to be passed through the families into the future; how the education of one, literally brings education for all. With education, the girls can also make informed decisions about life and have greater power in their own lives as well as their families'.
Volunteers play a huge role in all of this. Volunteers dedicate time to the project, and donors support the education of individuals. Everyone on the 'Education For All' committee is a volunteer and many of those who have visited the Kasbah du Toubkal have returned to volunteer their time at the facilities and to spread the word. The only real costs involved are the salaries of the housemaid and the cook who are employed to take good care of the girls.
Mike McHugo, a founder of 'Education for All'.
The duration of the volunteer stays can be anything from three to nine months. Volunteers aren't bound to stay at all times, as one does need to leave the country after three months to renew the tourist visa. "The main purpose of volunteering is to bring a world perspective to the lives of the girls and assist in anyway possible, for example by teaching English, French or IT skills or helping out the house mother with cooking and errands. Board and lodging is covered and the houses take good care of everyone," says Mike McHugo.
As a relatively new scheme, 'Education for All' relies on the interest of others to provide support. Visit their website and you can read the testimonies of volunteers who have spent time in the beautiful Moroccan countryside helping out. Also appreciate the letters from the girls themselves that illustrate just how much they recognize the value of the opportunity they have been given. They express their own hopes and dreams that they too will grow to support other girls like themselves who come from remote villages to receive education. Already it is clear that these girls will become a vibrant network of support for future students.
Living in a group house that has a commitment to the girls’ well-being and education is extremely important to the continued success of the programs, and it is encouraging to see that 'Education for All' offers some dynamic ways to get involved. There are many opportunities for schools and companies to become involved through fundraising and sponsorship.
Educational prospects get higher for these bright-eyed girls in Morocco.
In addition through activities like the charity climb of Jbel Toubkal, the highest point in North Africa and the annual bike riding holiday through the Moroccan countryside, anyone with a passion for adventure can get involved and help out at the same time.
Morocco is an exotic tourist destination with many European and North African connections - it’s easier to reach than you might imagine. It is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the region and with its famously delicious foods and intriguing bazaars it can be a rewarding and stimulating vacation destination for people of all ages and interests.
If you have not yet visited Morocco, do, and you will fall in love with it! And what better way to show your appreciation of it than to contribute to projects that will keep the country moving forward through education.
Photos courtesy of Alan Keohane and Karima Targaoui.
Interested to Volunteer? Send an email to Mike McHugo at mike AT discover DOT ltd DOT uk.
And visit Education for All website http://www.efamorocco.org for more information and to sign up to receive their newsletters.