Around 40 % of Moroccan people are illiterate. There are two times more illiterate women than illiterate men. Many children leave elementary school before the official ending. Teachers give lessons mostly frontally and sometimes use a stick. 3 hours weekly are meant for studying religion in public schools.
In spite of these facts we encountered very modern and encouraging education possibilities on our short teaching path through Morocco.
Below we are presenting project Soar, empowering young women; alternative school Mycelium, taking place in the plant nursery, following Montessori and Waldorf pedagogies; and finally, the only circus school in the country, Ecole Nationale de Cirque Shems’y, where young professionals are trained and youngsters from socially endangered environment are encouraged to live differently and actively.
P R O J E C T S O A R
There is no doubt women have different opportunities in life than men in Muslim environment. Their lives are happening hidden. Project Soar encourages young girls to express their potentials, move freely and spend time with friends. You can read more about the program and our teaching experience in one of the schools in Marrakech region in the article Empowered women. It is not a surprise there is no word for a feminist in Arabic language.
The founder of the project American Maryam Montague only recently got a little founding also from Moroccan government. In the future they are preparing their own TV channel, presenting Muslim women in more uncommon roles, e.g. as successful business women or athletes.
After our abstract juggling performance Uprooted teachers said we have only 5 min left for discussion with girls, but we ended with a much longer and very rich debate. I must admit I was surprised how thoughtful, curious, brave and susceptible for modern ideas and concepts of life these girls are.
E C O L E M Y C E L I U M, M A R R A K E C H
Mycelium is a school from every child’s dream. Aurelia Tazi, the founder from France, her Moroccan husband and their three daughters live just beside the school. It is placed at a plant nursery and opened it’s door only 4 months ago. 22 children, mostly from western families, are attending the program based on Montessori and Waldorf pedagogical methods. Altogether 10 teachers are employed. The tuition fee is app. 400 €. The school is described as “a different type of learning environment that places humanity, nature and relationships at it’s heart”.
Mycelium formally has a status of association, accepting children from 8 to 18 years old. They can take part in a variety of different activities, like film club, guitar lessons or ‘guest of the week’. The main colorful building has a rich library, meditation room, sewing room, spacious common area with high windows, science room and a cocoon – a place where children can calmly talk with each other, solve problems or relax. In the garden is a pavilion where they make decisions and debate. At the heart of the nursery is a kitchen where they prepare healthy, nutritious food. Everything is webbed by plants and small paths where kids can play and run.
Mycelium bases on the fact we need a paradigm shift and focus more on environment, learning and relationships.
C I R Q U E S H E M S’ Y
Salé is part of the Moroccan capital Rabat, only the river seperates the cities. Behind the walls of an old fortress, at the Atlantic coast of Salé, circus tent, gym and dance studio are set up.
When we open the hanging door of a Big Top we see huge wooden boxes and group of acrobats practicing all over them. It is the audition for a show.
School is lead by French director who showed us around. Lessons are given in French and Arabic. Among thirty students there are three women, two of them coming from France. They say it is not easy to live and study here. The area is poor and dangerous, one even witnessed a murder from her window, because the perpetrator wanted money.
3 years study is focused on acrobatic and dance skills as a base for other disciplines chosen by students. It starts with a week long audition in September and it is for free. Unfortunately there is no mentor for juggling. Besides watching the acrobatic audition we followed a dance class and common gymnastic warming up. It looked like hard and also creative training that lasts from morning to late afternoon.
Twice a week they organize workshops for children from the surrounding neighborhoods. Their vision is to give them the opportunity to learn about different lifestyle while practicing new, demanding skills, and to encourage them to take part in the professional circus career too. How social circus program in Salé influences the lives of children you can see in the short documentary Morroco: Circus Of My Sun.
To end with, we can say there are strong and influential tendencies for changes in Morocco although the programs presented are all directed by western visionaries. For the sake of opening our minds we want to share news about these alternative forms of education, their existence and ideas.
Text and photos: Uroš & Eva