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Morocco Week in Review 
March 10 , 2012

RPCV Article: How not to educate a girl
Community and government systems are not enough to improve literacy and education, and the gender gap is still widening.
Emily Heroy March 8, 2012

Emily Heroy is Executive Editor and co-founder of Gender Across Borders. She is expert in the education of girls education and development pursuing a Master of Arts in the Teaching of History degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was a Youth Development Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco and has 10 years of experience working with underprivileged girls around the world. In 2011 Heroy won the New Leader’s Council "Top 40 Under 40" and Women Deliver's "Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women."

In a family living room in the small town of Tamegroute, Morocco, a 20-year-old woman, Hind, sat beside her 30-year-old sister, Ibtissham. After a day of watching television, my host sisters walked with me to the local youth development center, where I was to start teaching an English class that night. Eager to learn, the two made up the entire female population of the class.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, I walked into that classroom in Morocco every day and I wondered why there weren’t more girls present. In an attempt to lure the town’s girls to my English class, I held classes earlier in the day to prevent them from having to walk home in the dark. Still, only my host sisters attended the classes. Reflecting on my continual efforts to attempt to teach more girls, I wonder if the lack of attendance had anything to do with more than just the stigma around young women walking alone at night. On this International Women’s Day (March 8), its theme of “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures,” challenges us to reflect on ways to bridge that education gap between girls and boys.

While living in Morocco, I came to realize the frightening difference between Hind and Ibtissham’s educational prospects and my own. The day’s television viewing was only interrupted to clean the house and cook meals. Neither sister was married or had a job, the latter having to do with social norms and economic prospects. In fact, the majority of women in Morocco are expected to instead take on the primary role of caretaker for their families.

On occasion, Hind would bring a basic French language book into the living room to practice her French with me. During one of our French language sessions, she told me that she wanted to pass the necessary exams to graduate secondary school in Morocco. As I was unfamiliar with what was required for her to pass the exams, I did not know if her goal was in reach. I wondered why she hadn’t been able to take her exams, and how many other girls like Hind wanted to take the exams but couldn’t.

In addition to the social norms that prevent women from pursuing education, the quality of education in Morocco is poor. About 60 percent of women in Morocco are illiterate (compared to 40 percent of men), and about 90 percent of rural women in Morocco do not know how to read or write. School is compulsory for all Moroccan children until the age of 15, however it is not strictly enforced as many, especially girls, do not enroll or drop out early. The reasons for the low enrollment and high drop out rates of girls are unclear, however child labor is rampant in Morocco.

Since passing a new Family Code eight years ago to address women’s rights and gender disparity and removing all Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) reservations, the Moroccan government is attempting to implement programs to reduce the education discrepancy gap between girls and boys.

In my attempts to teach English and practice French with Hind, I came to learn quickly that the educational futures of my host sisters were grim. While it is unclear of their reasons for dropping out of school early, I suspect the education in Morocco wasn’t encouraging them to graduate. Hind and Ibtissham are actually faring better than their female peers in Morocco: according to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, almost half of women in Morocco do not have any formal education.

Those who argue that we’ve attained gender equality have little retort to the story of Hind and Ibtissham. Putting aside other major issues that plague girls and women around the world today, the discrepancy in the education between girls and boys is abhorrent. Based on the United Nations’ statistics, it translates into a staggering 103 million illiterate girls as compared to only 63 million illiterate boys.

Gender inequity in education is also happening in the U.S., but in this instance, some girls are systematically and socially barred from even entering school buildings or taking lessons. As the school system at home continues to shortchange underprivileged girls and boys, mostly students of color, the system also reinforces schools as unsafe environments specifically for girls. Girls are more likely than boys to face sexual harassment in school, a report by the American Association of University Women states, and sexual harassment of girls negatively affects their performance in school.

This year's International Women’s Day theme of “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Women” could not have come at a better time. As a global community, we need to tell girls that they are valued, and that they can achieve their highest potential. Finally, we need to give girls educational opportunities to pursue their dreams and aspirations.

In order to close the global education gap between boys and girls, we need to advocate for government and community support of education for girls. The Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni made basic education a major focus and as a result, enrollment of girls skyrocketed and now the country is dealing with overcrowding in the classroom. In addition to government support, parents are a vital part of the community to encourage the education of girls. In Pakistan’s Balochistan province, parents banded together to permit “genderless” schools and as a result, boosted girls’ enrollment by 30 percent. These models of government-based and community-based support systems are exactly what girls need in order to achieve.

The chasm of global gender discrepancy in education is widening and swallowing girls’ lives as we continue to ignore it. The time to change is now, and the time to change is today. Let’s start caring about girls.

Peace Corps a tradition for Snohomish family
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Following her parents' lead, Brenna Anderst to volunteer in Morocco
By Alejandro Dominguez, Herald Writer
Brenna Anderst of Snohomish is preparing to head to Morocco as a member of the Peace Corps. Anderst spends a lot of her free time working as a volunteer at Healing the Children.

Brenna Anderst of Snohomish is preparing to head to Morocco as a member of the Peace Corps. Anderst spends a lot of her free time working as a volunteer at Healing the Children.

Brenna Anderst is preparing to make a trip to Morocco to teach English. The 23-year old Snohomish woman is leaving on March 19 and will spend 27 months helping a local community. This is similar to what both her parents did in the 1980s.

One of her main reasons she joined the Peace Corps was the many stories her parents told about their own time overseas. "My parents had a great experience living in different environments and gaining cultural perspectives," Anderst said.

Also, if it wasn't for the volunteer organization, her parents wouldn't have met. Her parents met in March 1986 while they were working as Peace Corps staff in Seattle. Ann Anderst, Brenna's mother, said she first saw her future husband during the 25th Peace Corps founding celebration. He later started working in the same office. "We worked together a lot in Peace Corps, so it's easy to know each other," she said.

They married in 1988, and now they have three children: Brenna, the oldest, Emily, 21, and Robby, 18. When Brenna told them she was applying to join Peace Corps, they were both surprised. "We were pleased that she wanted to follow the family tradition," she said. They know that her experience will be different than theirs because of today's technology. They also know her volunteer work will not be limited to teaching English.
"She appreciates other cultures," said Bill Anderst, her dad. "They will learn from her and she will learn from them."

Ann Anderst volunteered from 1978 to 1981 by helping improve agriculture practices in Liberia. She is now executive director for Healing the Children, a Mukilteo-based organization that helps children from around the world get access to proper and affordable medical care.

Bill Anderst volunteered from 1983 to 1985 and helped local fishermen manage a fishing cooperative in Jamaica. He is currently a Lake Stevens Middle School science teacher.

Brenna graduated from Western Washington University in June after earning a bachelor's degree in human services and rehabilitation. This is not the first time she is going to travel overseas for a volunteer mission. Three years ago, she went with her mother to Guatemala during her spring break to help small villages build water tanks for the dry season.

Brenna is spending the time before she leaves saying goodbye to friends. She was planning to learn Arabic, but she was advised to wait until arriving to Morocco. That way, she can learn the proper dialect.

She is also just trying to fit everything she needs into her suitcase. "It's hard to pack for two years," she said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 428-339-3422p;

A Moroccan Woman Wins the Title of Miss Colorado
New York, March 8, 2012

Iman Oubou (Miss Colorado International 2012 fan page) After the Moroccan-Finish Sarah Chafak won the title of Miss Finland, another Moroccan comes to confirm once again that Moroccan women are among the most beautiful on earth. Last February, Iman Oubou, a 23 year-old Moroccan-born woman won the title of Miss Colorado, the US State where she currently resides.

Iman Oubou expressed her content to be elected Miss Colorado and emphasized that she will strive to win the title of Miss US international, thus, honoring Moroccan women in general, and the Moroccan community in the United States, in particular. “I am happy and proud to be part of this adventure. I will bring that miss United States International title back home,” Iman told Morocco World News. “I have been preparing very hard and I am positive it will work out for the best,” she added.

Iman will represent the state of Colorado in the Miss United States International pageant to be held in Orlando, Florida next June.

Iman pursued her studies at Colorado State University where she obtained a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology in May 2011. She is currently completing her Master of Science in biomedical engineering along with a certificate in Bio-innovation entrepreneurship at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

In addition to her studies, Iman is involved with international medical missions and local medical centers in Colorado. After completing a medical mission to East Africa where she assisted in 26 surgeries, Iman plans on carrying out a medical mission to Morocco in May 2013.

Stemming from humanitarian leanings, Miss Colorado hopes to establish a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children suffering from cancer.

Like many Moroccans, what distinguished Iman from other contestants in Colorado is the fact that she speaks several languages, including Amazigh, Arabic, English and French.

Her exquisite beauty along with her high qualifications will enable her to be a serious candidate for the title of Miss United States, thus, becoming the second woman from the MENA region to win the title in a three year spam, after the Lebanese-born Rima Fakih won the prize in 2010. ==========================================================

In rural Morocco, women organize for education, land rights, health care
News Segments Thu, 03/08/2012

Women In Morocco have made gains in equality. They have the right to divorce and there are laws that protect them from the traditional practice of repudiation, in which husbands are able to dissolve marriages nearly at will. But challenges remain for many women in the country, according to human rights advocates. Dr. Boutaina Karrouri is President of the Azzahrae Forum for Moroccan Women. It’s an NGO which works on women and family issues, mainly in the rural areas of the country. FSRN’s Salim Rizvi sat down with her at the UN, where the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women just wrapped up.

Audio segments here:

Environment: Morocco under mlns of tonnes of building waste: Dumping a serious problem for the kingdom
05 March, 2012 (ANSAmed) - RABAT

Every year, Morocco "produces" a mountain of around 9 million tonnes of building waste that needs to find a suitable place to be collected and treated. The country, though is not yet equipped with a gathering, recycling and, therefore, treatment site with which to deal with this enormous quantity. The problem is of increasing concern to Moroccan professionals in the sector, especially those operating in rebuilding works.

While iron, aluminium, wood and especially copper remains are very attractive to collectors and sellers of the materials, the greatest problem concerns the treatment of glass, minerals, bitumen (and connected substances) and cement, which make up most of the waste and for which there is not a single dumping ground in the whole of the country. The only solution, therefore, is to dump them at random in the countryside.

While the resulting damage to the environment is difficult to quantify (pollution of the water supply is just one of the potential dangers), the phenomenon is becoming a tasty business for landowners who own areas that cannot be built up and subsequently taxed, who therefore turn land in to dumping grounds capable of absorbing the total nine million tonnes of building waste.

According to Les Echos, in order to avoid unplanned spending, construction entrepreneurs now include costs connected to waste management in budgets and bills for their work. One member of the national federation for construction and public works (FNBTP), these costs now represent 5% of the price of works, a significant outlay that weighs down on the finished work and, therefore, on the potential buyer.

The disposal of the mountain of waste is aggravated by the absence of an industrial sector that ensures all stages preceding recycling (transport, stocking, selection).

The FNBTP, which groups together firms operating in the construction sector, including major infrastructure works) has complained of the legislative void in Morocco surrounding the problem, which appears to be only an environmental one, such is the awareness of the potential gains to be made from the recycling of materials which today are simply dumped. ============================================

Morocco, still few women in ruling class
According to International Network of Liberal Women
05 March, (ANSAmed) - RABAT, MARCH 5

Morocco's economic development and social progress cannot be achieved without the full contribution of women, according to the president of the International Network of Liberal Women (INLW), Joaquima Alemany. Alemany made her statement in Rabat during a conference organised by Connectingroup International, an organisation for the promotion of women leadership to encourage the involvement of Moroccan women.

The theme of the meeting was: ''The involvement of women in the development process: current situation and prospects." The president of Connectigroup, Hakima El Haité, said that the event pays tribute to women, who celebrate their international day on March 8, and that it comes at an important time in the history of Morocco because of the new Constitution, which focuses on equal opportunities between the sexes. According to El Haité, having more women in the Moroccan ruling class contributes to the construction of a more balanced society.

But this road is still long according to Abdellah Ounir, Law professor at the Abdelmalek Saadi Faculty in Tangiers, who specified that it takes a change in mentality apart from a change in legislation, because at the moment ''Moroccan women are not sufficiently integrated in the development process for various reasons, like the lack of the right of equality and the exclusion of women from local management and the economic process.";_ylc=X3oDMTBucmhobGR0BF9TAzM5ODMwMTAyNwRhYwNkZWxNc2dz&mid=1_206976_AEFFv9EAAMrcT1ZEJQNidQd2cL0&fid=Inbox&sort=date&order=down&startMid=0&filterBy=&.rand=1646633088&hash=14def00720696ab91d72093208cf93c6&.jsrand=2981500 ============================================

Japan to help Morocco's economic development
(Mainichi Japan) March 6, 2012 TOKYO (Kyodo)

Japan said Monday it will further support Morocco's democratization and economic development, signing a bilateral agreement on new grant aid of 300 million yen. Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and his Moroccan counterpart Saad Dine El Othmani also agreed that the two countries will promote cooperation in the field of solar energy, according to a joint statement issued after their meeting in Tokyo.

The aid will be used by Morocco to procure industrial and medical products from Japan's northeastern region that was badly hit by a powerful earthquake and tsunami nearly a year ago.

Gemba has said he is planning to visit Morocco in early May to attend a follow-up ministerial meeting of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.;_ylc=X3oDMTBucmhobGR0BF9TAzM5ODMwMTAyNwRhYwNkZWxNc2dz&mid=1_206976_AEFFv9EAAMrcT1ZEJQNidQd2cL0&fid=Inbox&sort=date&order=down&startMid=0&filterBy=&.rand=1646633088&hash=14def00720696ab91d72093208cf93c6&.jsrand=2981500 ============================================

MarocAtlas solidarity group sets out on its annual raid to Morocco.
by Alice Mascarenhas

Twenty-six members of the MarocAtlas Gibraltar 4x4 Club in 26 vehicles will be carrying out the annual Solidarity Raid into Morocco. Setting out today the team had a trial run this week to try out their vehicles in a test run on the terrain at Eastern Beach. This year the raid will see them travelling in the Sahara desert. The club started back in 1994 when Club President Alfred Balban and George Acolina made a trip to Morocco with a 4x4 Club from Malaga.

Alfred explained how both men had been touched by the country and its people and decided to return the following year. However, by then the club had been dismantled and they set about creating a local club.

Since then the club has carried out solidarity raids in Morocco every year filling up their vehicles with all kinds of goods to donate. The trips take the group through the most remote and harsh parts of Morocco travelling over 5000kms in 16 days on their 4x4 vehicles. Participants load their 4x4s with everything they can: clothes, toys and school items, utensils, and other supplies many kindly donated by local companies.

The club holds monthly meetings and have registered as a charity. The group is affiliated to the Lions FC allowing them a fixed address. It now boasts 30 members.

“They are involved in different types off-roading. Our trips range from simple tracks and sightseeing to the most extreme of 4x4 trials, competitions and off-road race circuits and our annual Solidarity Raid into Morocco,” explained Alfred Balban.

Wind energy and solar power in in Maghreb/Middle East region
March 10, 2012

In Morocco, the 2nd round for wind power bidding has just been concluded and financial close for these projects expected by July 2012.

4th Annual Maghreb/Middle East Renewable Energy Summit 2012 will convene in Casablanca, Morocco, from 16th to 17th April 2012. Power Executives from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Turkey, Ethiopia amongst others will be in attendance to discuss the latest project updates and new tenders in the pipeline in 2012. The country’s Sovereign Wealth Energy Fund continues to welcome new equity partners for its new tranches of funding.

Supported by the Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water & Environment, this Casablanca Summit agenda offers not only expert insights on key challenges on the emerging renewable energy regulatory framework, but also latest project and market updates from regional energy regulators, gencos, T & D companies, IPPs, renewable project sponsors, financiers, investors.

With rising fuel prices and new favorable FIT tariff policies promulgated in many MENA countries providing the push and pull incentives, the growth potential for renewable energy in this region is indeed limitless.

Influential industry heavyweights who are confirmed to speak at the event include the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency National Agency (ADEREE), Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Centre de Developpement des Energies Renouvelables (CDER), Saudi Electricity (SEC), The Renewable Energy Authority of Libya, Ethiopian Electricity Agency, Energy Poles, KEMA Nederland BV, IDECO Electricity Company, ANME, Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority (S.E.W.A),, Mazan Electricity Co., Electricity Production Electricity & Water Authority, Sahara Wind Inc., The World Bank, Morocco Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), National Meteorological Directorate, Egyptian Electricity Regulatory Agency, Ministry of Energy & Natural Resources, Turkey and many more.

The CEO of Magenta Global, the Summit Organiser, Ms Maggie Tan commented “This year’s summit highlights the growth investment opportunities following post Arab Spring along with major strategic issues across the energy chain. This is an ideal meeting platform for key industry and market stakeholders to gain in-depth valuable knowledge directly from the team that are shaping policy and market developments.” The event will be hosted at Hyatt Regency Casablanca, Morocco

Moroccan schools welcome basketball convoy
By Naoufel Cherkaoui for Magharebia in Rabat – 07/03/12

TIBU Maroc organised a convoy that visited several Moroccan cities to promote basketball and boost the spirit of initiative among Moroccan students. The International University Basketball Association (TIBU Maroc) recently held a tour of Moroccan schools to promote the sport and encourage students to take initiative.

In 10 days (February 19th-March 1st), the convoy visited 11 high schools in different Moroccan cities. Local basketball champions, school managers and 20 trainers from the association took part in the event. More than 1,500 students benefited from the caravan, the first of its kind organised by the group.

TIBU Maroc President Mohammed Amine Zariat told Magharebia that "the event, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and some public and private enterprises, has two goals: sports-related and education to encourage school basketball by holding workshops in refereeing, training, and development of skills."

"Our goal is to encourage the spirit of initiative in young people for organising events. However, our work won't be restricted to the above; rather, we will ensure continuity through the ambassadors of our association who have a presence in all cities, and who will represent a link between us and those young people to ensure the success of our vision," he added.

"Our decision was to train 150 students at every high school we visited," he added. "However, applications for participation were much higher; something that reflects the extent of attention paid by Moroccan young people to basketball, which is the second most popular sport in Morocco."

Zariat also mentioned that a second tour is already being planned after several schools not involved in the first requested a visit. TIBU aims to increase the number of schools in the second tour from 11 to 20. "This sport encourages discipline and the desire to win, values that benefit young people," Zariat concluded.

Students who participated mentioned that they were glad that basketball was beginning to get so much attention since football usually dominates the sports scene. "This event is very important because it encourages us as young people to practice basketball," student Badr Adin told Magharebia. "It also encourages educational institutions to organise special competitions for this sport; something that we miss. I have benefited a lot from the training that was provided to us by TIBU Maroc, especially some techniques that will benefit me as I play for a basketball club."

Women Executive Director Commemorates International Women’s Day in Morocco; Urges Women’s Equal Participation as Fundamental to Democracy and Justice
PRWebPRWeb  – Thu, Mar 8, 2012 Rabat, Morocco

Highlights the progress made globally in women’s legal rights, educational achievements and participation in public life, and underlines the huge gaps that still remain for women globally from unequal opportunities to gross violation of rights.

Against the backdrop of global geopolitical events and during a period of unprecedented transformation in the region, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet commemorated International Women’s Day in Morocco today. Highlighting the progress made globally in women’s legal rights, educational achievements and participation in public life, she also underlined the huge gaps that still remain for women globally from unequal opportunities to gross violation of rights.

Ms. Bachelet called strongly upon world leaders to advance women’s increased political participation and economic empowerment as the foundation for sustainable societies worldwide. “Women’s full and equal participation in the political and economic arena is fundamental to democracy and justice, which people are demanding,” she said. “Equal rights and opportunity underpin healthy economies and societies.”

On her first official visit to the country, Ms. Bachelet commended Morocco and the Arab region on the gains that have been made, from the closing of the gender gap in schools and universities to the Moroccan Constitution, which establishes the principle of equality between men and women in all spheres and prioritizes international conventions, to the Tunisian Constituent Assembly where the electoral law for full parity enabled women to garner 27 percent of the seats during the recent elections. However, she urged for more concrete policy actions to improve women’s lives.

“Despite the steps taken forward and the progress made in many Arab States, women are demanding greater progress,” she said at a press conference in Rabat. “The distinction of having the world’s lowest representation of women in politics and the labour force provides neither justice to Arab women nor to the history, legacy and future of the Arab world.”

To kick off International Women’s Day celebrations, Ms. Bachelet took part in an interactive dialogue with young school girls at the “Abidar Al Ghafari” High School in Rabat. The meeting brought together students who have been nominated by their peers from 15 schools around the city, to engage in a conversation on women’s leadership and recent changes in the region. As part of the national commemoration of International Women’s Day, Ms. Bachelet also addressed the conference, titled “Morocco on the Path towards Equality: Legal and Institutional Advances for Gender Equitable Public Policies,” organized by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, in partnership with UN Women.

Ms. Bachelet will meet with the chief of government of Morocco and other Ministers during her three-day visit. Her trip will also include a visit on 9 March to a rural women’s project undertaken by the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women and supported by UN Women, underlining the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: “Empower Rural Women – End Poverty and Hunger.” The project focuses on the struggle by the women members of the Soulalyates ethnic group for land rights and is a testament to the mobilization of women on the ground towards collective land rights and economic independence.

Several high-level meetings with officials, academics and civil society are also planned, where Ms. Bachelet will echo UN Women’s strong commitment to support women worldwide, including Arab women across the region, during this period of transition, and to advance gender equality and bring concrete and lasting change in women’s lives.

The Partisan Challenge in Morocco
Sun, 04 March 2012  Mohammad el-Ashab

Three Moroccan parties, both pro-government as well as opposition parties, have set dates for holding their conferences prior to the end of the year. This implies that the re-structuring of the parties makes no distinction between political positions. Indeed, those who opted for the opposition aspire for enhancing their position, and those who support the government want to stay on board until the end of the current term.

Most importantly, the image of the party whose leadership is never renewed has become an outdated tradition. Without internal democracy, democratic practices cannot possibly be firmly established within the state and the society. It is no longer acceptable for the party that plays the part of a mediator in preserving the balance to preach one thing and practice the opposite. Self criticism has turned into common denominators that cannot be overlooked in a constantly changing climate. Although the Arab Spring had no other effect in Morocco but to rock the partisan structure and to push it to shed its skin, this characteristic has imposed a desire to create something new that will keep pace with the transformations that have affected everybody.

Change within the context of continuity has pushed the effective political forces to look for places for themselves. Chance had it that the developments brought an Islamist party, the Justice and Development party, to power on the backdrop of the existential battles that it fought. The benefit of this transformation restored the hope to partisan figures that realized that their ability to renew their elites, programs, and practices, might guarantee them a kind of continuity so as to prevent them from becoming the victims of a blind social and cultural act of vengeance.

The feeling of the tightening circle is no longer confined to the people in power. It has rather extended, like a raging fire, to anyone who opposes it. This feeling has now started to affect partisan and syndical figures, as well as businessmen and some struggling sectors. The fact that the political parties have stepped into the circle of self criticism only means that the crisis has reached a peak as the dangers that are threatening everybody are now being felt.

Everyone is eager to see what the Moroccan Islamists can achieve as they are now a hundred days away from forming a cabinet. The same also applies when it comes to the achievements of the opposition. While the shock of last November 28 is still casting its shadows on the components of the political scene, this goes beyond the calculations of days and weeks in the direction of exploring the strong and weak points through an experience that was surrounded with the highest level of both hopes and dishonesty.

Raising the question concerning the horizon of the experience is not new. In 1998, while only a few weeks had elapsed since the Rotation Plan, questions were raised concerning the post-Rotation period; most specifically on the added value that it will bring in confronting the present problems and dilemmas. No one thought back then that a party of no more than fourteen MPs would invade the scene fourteen years later. A surprise does not happen when people are expecting it. It rather contradicts with the most solemn extrapolations. And the reason why the Arab spring has surprised many is that it was not expected in that same acuteness and momentum; in addition to the changes that it brought to the concepts, roles, and expectations.

The Moroccan political parties that have resisted in the face of the poignant slogans and quakes can preserve their existence and their symbolism based on the jurisdictions allowed by the new constitution that consist of framing and expressing the intellectual and political directions. However, these parties no longer have traditional roles similarly to the phases of relaxation and prosperity. Their roles are now more in line with the need to bridge the deep gaps within the society where every angry group has turned into a party, and every activist has turned into a movement, and every desperate individual has turned into a potential suicidal person.

The choices - that focused on marginalizing the parties and lessening the value of politics, and that have perhaps imagined a Morocco with weak or dependent parties that will be allowed to control the political scene and turn it into mere decoration – were erroneous. But democracy cannot evolve without partisan tributaries with a democratic radiance. The parties’ weakness has never been an encouraging phenomenon. On the contrary, it always leads to a bigger weakness that touches on the structure of the modern state.

Moroccan figures are proceeding on the road of self criticism. However, the need to strengthen the partisan structure is no longer seasonal, or subject to mood fluctuations. It has rather become a real bet that enhances the role of society in making its own choices and in selecting the safest way to guarantee a calm change in the realm of continuity that does not undermine stability

Morocco allocates funds to support poor
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat 2012-03-08

The Benkirane government is reviving plans for a social safety net financed by the state and private enterprises.
The Moroccan government is preparing to set up a social solidarity fund aimed at supporting the poor.

The plans were withdrawn from the 2012 finance bill by the former government because of the challenging economic situation. But the current government has reintroduced the measure into this year's budget. Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane issued a personal commitment to getting the fund in place.

At a press briefing on February 23rd, Benkirane said that 2 billion dirhams would be set aside for the national solidarity fund, 1.2 billion of which would be contributed by the private sector. It will be primarily aimed at funding medical care for those experiencing financial hardship and promoting education for children from poor families.

Financing the fund remains a pressing issue. Former Economy and Finance Minister Salah Eddine Mezouar had planned funding based on a fixed contribution from certain sectors, particularly banking, insurance and telecoms.

But according to Driss Azami el Idrissi, the minister delegate responsible for the budget, the government is now trying to find objective criteria to avoid some economic sectors being set against others.

Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Najib Boulif has indicated that society as a whole needs to be on board with the plans, in a spirit of solidarity. He said that companies which enjoy significant cash flow must be aware that stability comes at a price.

He pointed out that the gentle transition experienced by Morocco spared these companies the difficulties being faced by businesses in other countries across the region.

He also mentioned the obligation to remedy failings in terms of the distribution of subsidies from the compensation fund and the importance of targeting the people in most need. In 2011, the fund's budget amounted to 48.9 billion dirhams, or 6.1% of GDP, compared with just 0.9% in 2002.

Benkirane's government is committed to developing the principle of solidarity, particularly for the most vulnerable sectors of society. Discussions are under way for the operational launch of another fund: the family support fund, for divorced women whose former husbands cannot pay their food allowances. According to Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid, the measure should be introduced soon. The fund will receive 160 million dirhams in 2012.

A mother and her children would each be entitled to 350 dirhams, up to a maximum payment of 1050 dirhams, Ramid said. He acknowledged that the sums involved were derisory, but promised that they will be increased once the state's financial situation improves.

Amina Boufarah is a mother of two who has been divorced for three years and whose ex-husband does not pay the food support payment set by the court. She works as home help, earning an average of 1000 dirhams a month; not enough to pay the room rent, water and electricity bills. She still relies on help from her family and friends to survive. "I hope the fund will soon start paying out, so that I can feed my two children," she said.


Moroccans take on silver firm for their share of the wealth
March 5 2012  By Reuters Souhail Karam

On a recent chilly night, Brahim Udawd gazed from the top of a hill at a brightly lit mine below. “That’s the curse plaguing our land,” he said, pointing to the Imider mine. “It was discovered in the seventh century. I don’t think life here changed much since those medieval times.”

The Imider mine, on the eastern slopes of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, is the world’s seventh biggest producer of silver. For the communities around it, some of the most impoverished in the country, it is the biggest source of income within a 450km radius.

But instead of welcoming the mine, many local people resent it as a symbol of how Morocco’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a privileged few, while the rest of the population live in poverty.

Hundreds of villagers from the Imider area were angry enough so that in August they cut off the flow from a well which supplies water to the mine. Since then they have camped on the hilltop by the well to make sure it is not turned back on.

The drop in water supply caused the mine a 40 percent loss of processing capacity. Shares of developer Imiter Metallurgical Company (Société Métallurgique d’Imiter) (SMI) fell 15 percent from their peak this year on the Casablanca bourse after it announced the protest’s impact. Precious-metal traders on the other side of the world wanted to know what was happening.

For Udawd, dressed in a brown woollen jalabba gown and one of the leaders of the protest, it is simple: “We are fighting for dignity and a fair share of our land’s wealth.”

Morocco’s King, Mohammed VI, shrewdly took the sting out of mass protests last year inspired by the “Arab Spring” by proposing reforms that should allow greater democracy and let moderate Islamists, in opposition for years, lead the new government. But the stand-off at the mine shows unrest driven by anger at poverty and income disparities is still bubbling and has the potential to damage the economy.

The Imider mine is especially symbolic because a major shareholder, through a series of other shareholdings, is Morocco’s monarchy, the largest private stakeholder in the $100 billion (R747bn) economy and the institution at the top of the moneyed ruling elite.

But the mine is not unique. Across the country there are regular bouts of protests against poverty, official corruption and the perceived failure of the state to help.

A common grievance is businesses get away with fleecing workers or polluting rivers, because they belong to the Makhzen, a secretive network of court officials, businessmen and advisers that can act with impunity as it is close to the royal court. The protesters at Imider accuse SMI of depleting water acquifers, creating pollution and doing too little to improve living conditions in the area.

In villages near the mine, poverty stands at an official 19 percent, against an national 9 percent average. Some people live on only $1.50 a day – one tenth of the minimum wage paid at the mine. A short paved road that connects the mine to the main national road ends abruptly at the mine’s entrance, leaving a long network of rough dirt tracks connecting six villages near it.

With a population of about 6 000 people in over seven villages, the Imider area has one dispensary that employs one nurse. SMI built the facility, but it is often closed due to what residents say were repeated burglaries. “A pregnant woman here has to travel at least 161km to Ouarzazate’s hospital to give birth,” said Ahmed Sadqi, a member of parliament for the Tinghir province. “It’s not fair for a province the size of Lebanon. There is extreme marginalisation and exclusion. The imbalance has reached a revolting scale. That must change.”

Fatima, a schoolteacher in Ikis Amezdar, a village near the mine, said many of her pupils walk for up to two hours to reach school. “Some live 3km away and others (walk) 9km. Too many of them can’t afford to buy pens and books,” she said. “The weather here is... very harsh and there is no water and no electricity. But last year, we had mobile-network coverage brought in.”.

The mine operator said it had spent between 1 and 2 million dirhams (R888 870 and R1.8m) each year to fund development in the region over the past few years.

People in the area had unrealistically high expectations about what the firm could provide, said Abderrazak Gmira. He heads the precious metals department at SMI’s parent company, Managem. “The protest is led by a group of youths who claim to represent the local population,” Gmira said at the mine site. He said the protest was “motivated by economic and social grievances that have accumulated over the past years. Of course we can help solve these problems, but we can’t do it alone”.

He denied allegations the mine was depleting local water supplies and also denied SMI caused unlawful levels of pollution. He said the company had not yet been certified as meeting the ISO 1 400 standards on environmental management, but expected to receive the certification within a year. “We apply international standards that govern the industry. We are well aware of our responsibility vis-à-vis the environment and we believe strongly that prevention is always better than cure.”

Sadqi said Morocco’s environmental protection laws were a shambles. “A draft law was issued in the 1990s, but it has not yet been implemented.” Chakib Laroussi, a spokesman for the royal cabinet, declined to comment on the situation at the mine and said questions should be referred to the company.

All Mustapha Bedri knows is his apple trees no longer bear fruit. He is a farmer who has lived in the area for 25 years, and blames the mining. For Bedri, the fact that the royal family is an indirect shareholder in the mine leaves him a little perplexed. “The king is our father, isn’t he? A father takes good care of his own. No?” – Reuters

Morocco set for higher raw sugar imports in 2012  – Wed, Mar 7, 2012 RABAT

Morocco's domestic output of sugar beet and cane in 2012 may account for less than the 30 percent of domestic sugar needs they covered last year due to bad weather conditions, the head of the country's sole sugar refiner said on Wednesday.

"Last year, Cosumar relied for around 30 percent of its sugar production on the domestic production of beet and cane," Mohamed Fikrat, Chief Executive of private Cosumar told Reuters. "For this year, I think that percentage will be lower," added Fikrat, who cited a drop in sugar beet-planted areas and bad wather conditions as the main reasons for the expected fall in the local output of sugar plants this year.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a global conference on food security in Rabat. Morocco's annual sugar needs stand at around 1.2 million tonnes.

This should mean that Cosumar would rely on increased imports of raw sugar to fill the shortfall caused by the drop its sugar production from local beet and cane harvest.;_ylc=X3oDMTEwaGc3dmY5BF9TAzIwMjM4Mjc1MjQEZW1haWxJZAMxMzMxMTQwMDA5

Morocco gender change film tackles suppression of women
Wednesday, 07 March 2012
By Khadija al-Fathi Al Arabiya Rabat

The Moroccan film Androman de Sange et de Charbon (Androman of Blood and Carbon), which tackles injustice against women and the issue of gender change, is to premier in Moroccan movie theatres in March after winning several awards at the Festival National du Film (National Film Festival) in Tangiers.

The film tells the story of a family that lives in a remote village in the Atlas Mountains. The father, called Ouchen, works in coal manufacturing, a profession that has been passed down from generation to another, and hoped he would have a son to inherit the family business and keep the land, which has to go to the nearest male relative, said director of the film Az Larabe Alaoui.

“After the death of his wife, the father then decides to turn his daughter into a boy who he calls Androman” he told Al Arabiya.

The residents of the village, Alaoui, are fooled into believing that the father has a boy until the child falls into the river and her true gender is revealed to a shepherd who lives there. A love story ensues between Androman and the shepherd in what villagers think is a homosexual relationship.

“To avenge his honor after his neighbors know that his alleged son is gay, the father kills the shepherd.”

According to actress Jalila Tlemsi, who played the role of Androman, the film focuses on the loss of identity and the way it is related to social ailments. “The suppression Androman goes through is a reflection of the society to which the father belongs and which makes him insist on having a son even when this is not possible,” she told Al Arabiya.

Tlemsi, who got Best Actress at the National Film Festival in Tangiers, said “Androman of Blood and Carbon” was a real challenge that will play a major role in shaping her career and in her popularity. “Playing the role of a boy was very difficult. I had to be careful with the voice, the movements, and the looks.”

The character of Androman, she added, is a very complicated one that required a lot of analysis before starting the shooting. “Every time I read the script, I discovered another dimension in the characters and I found many ways of approaching it.”

Makeup was also another challenge, she added. She and the director spent a lot of time with the makeup artist in order to arrive at the Androman they envisioned. “I chose not to wear a wig and to shave my hair not because I wanted sensational media coverage, but because this made me relate more to the character and start living her dilemma.”

In addition to the Best Actress award Tlemsi received, “Androman of Blood and Carbon” got another three awards at the National Film Festival: Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Score, and the Critics’ Award.

Owing to its focus on the oppression of women, director Alaoui was planning for the first show to be on International Women’s Day on March 8. However, several of the Moroccan officials expected to attend the premier had prior engagements that day. The date of the premier remains to be determined.

Despite considering the movie one that tackles women’s rights, Alaoui argued that it is also about the human condition in general and the way its essence can be deformed. “The film is about violating the sanctity of the human body and creating freaks of nature out of it.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

Making Morocco's Medinas Accessible to Wheelchairs
 Tuesday, 06 March 2012

Taking to the streets of Marrakech by wheelchair

“Which would you prefer, a limited experience or no experience at all?” The question is put to me by Daniella Johnson while we’re taking a coffee on the terrace of the Café de France, watching the goings on in the beautiful chaos that is Jmaa el Fna, North Africa’s most exotic and vibrant square, the heart and soul of Marrakech.

She has a point. Just because the cobbles in the Medina, the one-thousand year old centre of the historic city might bounce a wheelchair around, the clamour of the merchants in their long, hooded gelabas selling their wares from dolls house-sized shops might slightly confuse someone with limited hearing, or the rapid change from bright sunlight to almost Stygian gloom could disorientate a visually impaired person for a while, is that any reason not to visit one of the most exotic destinations in Africa, and one of the safest? And apart from that, Morocco is far more than ancient alleyways and the hubbub of sandal sellers.

American-born Johnson has been touring the towns and cities of southern Morocco since June of 2011, researching hotels, museums, tourist venues, shops, and sites for the fledgling travel company, Morocco Accessible Travel, which goes live with its first holidays in Spring this year. Trained as a nurse, she lived for a while in France, before discovering Fez, Morocco’s ancient capital, and one of the country’s four imperial cities. Possibly the most beautiful city in the Maghreb, Fez isn’t particularly friendly for people with motor impairment, being built in a valley surround by hills, so when New York-based Experience It! Tours, the parent company of MAT, asked Johonson if she would develop a new travel company specialising in holidays for disabled people, Marrakech was the obvious choice, as the city is almost completely flat.

“When I was trying to work out what I wanted for MAT, using the term ‘disabled people’ seemed quite harsh, so when I visit hotels or tour venues I use the terms ‘barrier-free travel’ or ‘travel for people with unique needs’, because they are much more inclusive. A ramp at the entrance to a museum is equally as useful for a family with a push chair, or an elderly person who needs to use some form of walking aid, as it is for a wheelchair user. Put that ramp in place to remove the barrier of having to climb a set of stairs and you suddenly open up your hotel or venue to a much broader audience, which is as much a benefit for local people as it is for visitors.”

We finish our coffee and take a walk across Jmaa el Fna, beginning at a music shop blaring out Moroccan disco music. I switch on my small recorder and we walk slowly; past the storytellers regaling the audience with their lyrical chant, the wail of a snake charmer’s flute, a monkey man who tries to put his chattering animal on my shoulder, the clashing of the small hand cymbals and insistent drum beat of the gnaou musicians, the cries of hawkers selling toys, the jingling of coins in the hand of the cigarette seller, and the babble of Arabic, French, Berber and a hundred and one different languages. When I listen to it later it sounds as if I’m tuning a radio in Africa, passing through the waves with each sound ebbing and flowing as I change stations. The scent of smoke and barbequed food fills the air as the al fresco stalls that make Jmaa el Fna the largest open-air restaurant in the world begin setting up. A hint of incense, a whispy aroma of jasmine and freshly squeezed orange juice, with the occasional rustic whiff of horse dung as a calache trots by; all blend together to create an exotic perfume.

“I’m really encouraged by the reaction I’ve had, particularly from hotel owners. The fact is that often it simply hasn’t occurred to them to think of disabled people as a tourism ‘market’, if you care to use that term, or that with a few simple changes they can make their hotels and venues easily accessible. In many ways it’s probably because of the culture of Morocco. Moroccans get very little state help for disabled people, so they are used to dealing with any difficulties within the family. Because of that they are very supportive of what I’m trying to do.”

One of the charms of a visit to Marrakech is a stay in a riad in the Medina, one of the original houses where life revolves around an inner courtyard garden. Most have roof-top terraces with views across to the city to the peaks of the High Atlas Mountains in the distance. The large riads often have swimming pools on the terrace. Unfortunately, stairways are usually quite narrow and dark, with steps of uneven heights and no handrails, making access to the terraces sometimes quite difficult.

“A few of the riads have elevators, but the truth is that if someone with any sort of motor problems wants to visit Marrakech then I would advise them to stay in a hotel,” says Johnson.

But that’s no hardship. Marrakech is overflowing with hotels of all levels, from the basic somewhere-to-lay-your-head to the glory of La Mamounia, the gem of Marrakech hotels, that recently reopened after a $176 million refurbishment.

On a recent visit to the Ben Youssef Maderssa, the 14th-century Islamic college, the largest in Morocco and one of Marrakech’s most visited monuments, Johnson came across a group of wheelchairs users and their helpers.

“It was such a surprise, but even though they could only visit the ground floor rooms everyone was so happy to have been able to see this beautiful and important monument. But one of the things that moved me most was they all said that anything is possible, we can do it.

“Things will change slowly, it’s the nature of what happens here, but they are changing. There is very little adapted transport available at the moment, although a new red tour bus service recently started, which has wheelchair access and you can get on and off at various points around the city. You may find that access or facilities for disabled people are more limited than you might find elsewhere, but if you can accept some limitations, Morocco is a wonderful country to visit. There are the mountains, the dessert, the ocean, and some beautiful cities. But one of the best reasons to visit the country are the Moroccans themselves. They are a delightful and charming people who will go out of their way to help.”

Morocco: Unauthorised building on the rise  

Unauthorised building is not new in Morocco but the Arab Spring, demonstrations, social tensions and elections have caused a decline in inspections, because the authorities are busy keeping public order. This has caused the phenomenon to spread in the second half of 2011. According to data released by the Ministry of Habitat, Urbanism and Urban Planning, more than 40 thousand houses were built illegally in a few months time.

This figure, La Vie Eco writes referring violations discovered during inspections across the country, is probably too low.

Cleanup operations have been carried out in the past weeks in an attempt to curb the worrying phenomenon. Houses have been demolished, causing clashes with the local population, in El Jadida, Safi, Salé, Tangiers and Agadir. In Agadir, the governor of the region decided to launch an unprecedented operation: more than four thousand unauthorised homes have been demolished. According to the Department of Protection, ''these local operations reduce the proportion of unauthorised homes on a national level." But the problem far from being solved, also because of the heavy resistance in some regions and due to certain economic factors, like the increase in purchasing power in part of the population and the fact that the existing accommodations do not meet general demand. The construction sector is benefiting from this situation. In the past year, the sector recorded a double-figure growth in sales.

Morocco, 7 billion from migrants every year: Remittance vital for economy of whole continent

One of the most important contributing factors to the economies of many African countries are remittances from citizens living abroad. The crucial influx of money often becomes a real resource for economies that, whether stagnant or growing, are able to draw enormous benefits from the phenomenon, even though the costs involved are considered too high. To illustrate the importance of money transfers, in Morocco alone around 7 billion euros enter the kingdom every year.

After foreign direct investments, money transfers from migrants are the second largest source of income for the African continent. The cost of these operations, though, reach 15% of the amount of money transferred, according to a report produced jointly by the African Development Bank (BAD) and France, which says that the importance of the source of income should bring about a lowering of costs. "These flows of private money support growth in developing countries, in the same way as development cooperation and foreign direct investments. They help to strengthen the capacity for saving and investment in benefiting countries".

Considering that "when Europe loses one percentage point of its rate of growth, Africa loses 0.5%", the report states that sources of growth should be found, particularly through a greater reorganisation of the funds transferred by migrants to their families.

The study also highlights the need to diversify intermediaries. The BAD says that money transfer companies should not be the only ones involved in the transactions, but that banks and other specialised e-banking groups should also play a role, as the increase in competition would ensure a lowering of costs.

Driss Farès, the secretary general of the Union of North African Banks, says that transfers account for 7 billion dollars a year in Morocco. "We must show that this is a defiscalised saving, drawn from rich economies". Farès says that the figure is actually higher, as statistics are thought not to take into consideration transfers made by French nationals of Moroccan extraction, as they are not considered migrants. There are also problems in establishing transfers from Germany, where dual nationality is forbidden.

In light of the study by the BAD and France, the BAD's representative in Morocco, Amani Abou-Zeid, has announced in an interview with Le Soir- Echos, that a "migrant transfer fund" is to be set up, with the aim of "supporting local initiatives". Abou-Zeid said that she was proud that three of the proposals considered had been made by Morocco, which she called a "pioneer thanks to association that have existed for some time" and that "have done formidable work to develop their communities in a responsible and integrated way". The BAD's role is therefore "to orientate and to guide, and if financing is needed, the bank will intervene through the fund recently created". (ANSAmed).

Focusing on social housing
Global Arab Network Adnan Kassar Thursday, 08 March 2012

As evidenced by an increased demand for construction materials, including a dramatic 25% rise in cement sales, Morocco’s property sector is continuing to see steady growth thanks in large part to a strong emphasis on social housing – a segment that has consistently run a deficit of supply, thereby promising continued expansion in the years to come, Global Arab Network reports according to OBG.

Residential property remains the real estate sector’s main driving force, accounting for around 67% of total sales. In 2011, prices increased by 3.4% compared to 2010 and the number of units sold on the market was up by 13.6%. According to the latest statistics released by Bank Al Maghrib for the last quarter of 2011, the volume of transactions in the residential property sector rose by 22.8%, mainly due to the increase in middle-income and high-end apartment and villa sales. In the last quarter of 2011, villa prices saw a year-on-year (y-o-y) increase of 4.2% and sales rose by 11.3%.

However, it was apartment sales that lead the sector, accounting for around 61% of total sales. Prices saw a y-o-y increase of 5.2%, while the volume of transactions rose by 25.7%. The majority of real estate activity comes from further along the socioeconomic spectrum, at the affordable housing end, which accounts for more than two-thirds of total residential demand.

The country’s housing deficit stood at roughly 608,000 units in 2011, with a significant shortfall in terms of the availability of government-sponsored accommodation, exacerbated in part by the Kingdom’s move to eliminate shantytowns and shift residents into proper housing.

The project, known as Cities Without Slums (Villes Sans Bidonvilles, VSB), was launched in 2004 and aims to relocate families from poorer neighbourhoods and place them into new houses in urban areas. The programme, which now impacts some 1.75m people, has seen remarkable progress towards achieving its objectives. Since the programme’s launch, an additional 400,000 people have been added to the government’s targets, and according to the Ministry of Housing, 70% of the scheme has been realised so far. Some 1.2m households have either been relocated or are currently awaiting the completion of their new home.

As a result, 43 out of the 85 towns affected by the VSB scheme have been declared slum-free. In the 42 remaining towns, more than 60% of the work has been achieved. Casablanca, Marrakech, Kénitra, Rabat, Larache and Guercif are among the next 17 towns to have moved all targeted households into new homes.

The VSB programme has been most successful thus far in the Oriental Region, located in north-eastern Morocco, where 83% of the targeted households have been demolished and families relocated. The Al Omrane-Oujda group, a real estate company placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Housing, has been one of the main players in the region in helping eradicate slums.

Also among the company’s main projects is that of the urban zone planned for the town of Al Aroui where 210 ha will be dedicated to housing. Some 36,000 housing units will be built in the area for about 180,000 inhabitants. Relocating families into the refurbished apartments planned by the government has been made possible thanks to a number of financing mechanisms. Fogarim, which has provided government-backed mortgages to people with low incomes since 2003, has enabled 81,000 people to obtain their own home. Among these, 15,200 households that have been relocated under the VSB scheme have benefitted from the Fogarim scheme. At the end of 2011, the credit distributed to these families accounted for around 11%, or Dh1.22bn (€109.3m), of total issued Fogarim credit.

However, the Fogarim programme currently faces a major challenge as a number of payment defaults have been reported in towns such as Oujda, Azrou and Rabat, where some households have failed to pay off their monthly instalments of around Dh1500 (€134). Authorities have asked banks for more time before taking judicial action again the loanholders, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance has put in place a new loan, the Fogarim-VSB, that specifically targets this segment of the population and lowers their monthly payments to Dh1000 (€90).

Morocco’s residential sector will continue to expand as the government pursues its objective of relocating people to newer, urban housing. Already some 4000 ha of land per year have been reclaimed for urban projects, with some 45% of this used for real estate, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. With the government planning to develop a further 70,000 ha, the sheer volume and scale of the government’s housing schemes should leave plenty of room for growth in real estate. (OBG)
Global Arab Network

School Violence: Lessons to Be Learned by Heart
By Rachid Ait Oumaiz Morocco World News  Agadir, Morocco, March 10,  2012

Last week, two of my best students (H.T and F.Z) delivered an interesting presentation about ‘School Violence’. The presentation was supervised by Mr. Hassan Boudad and Mr. Slimane Mahmoudi who are both high school teachers of Biology and History & Geography respectively. To raise awareness for the event, the organizing committee invited teachers, students, parent representatives and even the regional delegate who apologized later for not attending that quite outstanding event.

The presenters gave a tentative definition of school violence stating some of the common features of violence. Then, they talked about the varied forms that school violence can take, ranging from student-student violence, teacher-student violence to violence that students may impose upon school equipment.

Concerning the causes underlying school violence, the presenters stated three main factors: psychological reasons, family reasons and school factors. These reasons have some tremendous effects either in the behavioral ethics’ sphere or in educational related concerns.

What was striking about the presentation is that the presenters managed to identify some solutions to one of the biggest problems our Moroccan education system is suffering from. Among the solutions they suggested are the following points:

  -To promote a culture of tolerance and fight violence

  -To lay the foundation for respect and dialogue inside the school

  -To give students freedom to express themselves and to focus on the positive qualities of their personalities.

It is worth mentioning that the previously stated solutions are among the many important suggestions students came up with. Above all, they agreed to deal with the issue of violence in ‘Sidi Bouyahya High School’ in the form of ‘educational research’. The violence committee, which is in charge of observing and responding to concerns about violence in the school, will continue to debate and search for comprehensive solutions to this issue throughout the year.

The success of the presentation did not lie in the amount of information provided, rather it resided in the debate that was spurred among the huge audience in attendance. Everyone expressed their points of view, which was very interesting for it enabled people to weigh all the ideas that had been presented in the presentation. You can not imagine how much curiosity and willingness to find solutions that the subject generated among the people whose presence is necessary for the discussion of such topics.

 I do believe that the organizing committee has succeeded in making all the parties come together around a quite challenging issue which is school violence. In this regard, thanks goes directly to the school principal, Mr. Mohamed Ait Ahmed Oubrahim for his high managerial skills and professional leadership.

What can be learned from the school violence presentation after all? In other words, what are some conclusions we can draw from this event? Here are some ideas that we have gained from taking part:

-Try to be as simple as possible, but not simple.

-Focus on areas of common ground and similarities between teachers and students

-Engage in fruitful dialogue and discussions with all parties

-Listen to students’ views attentively and respond to them accordingly

-Diagnose the problem first before seeking its solution

-Share the objectives with the whole world

-act now and don’t wait for ‘Godot’ because he won’t come

To cut a long story short, school violence should be dealt with from different perspectives. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding.”

Rachid Ait Oumaiz is a Moroccan high school teacher of English. He holds a professional BA in TEFL&ICT (Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Information Communication Technology) from Ibn Zohr University in Agadir. By Rachid Ait Oumaiz is an active member of MATE (The Moroccan Association of Teachers of English). He is also interested in Politics, International Relations, Social Studies and Journalism. (
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved

Moroccan Education: A Teacher’s Reflections
By Nabil Es-shaimi Morocco World News Casablanca, March 9, 2012

When I first started reading an article called, “An Argument for a more formative approach to assessment in ELT in Morocco,” by Mr. Ouakrime, a professor of English literature at the University of Fez, especially after reading some quotes such as: “A student’s critical awareness of the purpose behind evaluation and the rationale behind the decisions made by teachers concerning his/her performance, is itself part of his/her education” (Cox, 1983 : 1) or “Use such evaluation to yield results to be used as feedback to participants in an educational program” (Sanders and Cunningham, 1973, Stake, 1967 and Cronbach et al, 1980), I told myself: “Why the hell am I not doing formative assessment?” Then I decided that , starting from next year, I will use the formative assessment as a way to urge students to exert more efforts in class on a daily basis, instead of them just waiting until they’re informed about the next test to go and revise their lessons. Formative assessment will be done in the form of short quizzes at the beginning of the sessions every once in a while. And, the mark that the students will get will be counted in the final mark as a way to compensate the hardworking students. Probably I won’t wait until next year to start; I’d rather start the system next week. I got another idea, “Why not let students correct each other’s papers right after we finish the quiz”; after all, it’s not about how much the students got in the test, it’s about how well the students mastered the lesson.

However, now that I’ve finished that whole article I found plenty of excuses not to conduct formative assessment, first of which I can state is the inconveniency of the classroom setting and the over-crowding of classrooms that most teachers in Morocco experience. It’s not that easy to implement such ideas in noisy classes where misbehaving students just wait for the opportunity to create chaos in class. Talking about implementing such ideas is easy, but doing it is just as hard as stone. One of the main requirements to do such assessments in Moroccan EFL classes is that students should be willing to learn; which is not the case with a large number of students in our classes. As a way out of this dilemma, I may try it once or twice with some classes and see if it works. Then, if so, I will start using it continuously and advise my colleagues to use it too.

Nevertheless, if I am to conduct formative assessments continuously in my classes, I have to print copies to almost 300 student every once in a while, and that means a whole budget that should be spared from my salary. Yes! My own salary. The Moroccan education system and administration does not provide teachers with a photocopying machine. The teacher has to print copies for students from his/her own pocket. Some teachers urge students at the beginning of the school year to bring along with their copybooks and course books fees for the photocopies. But, only few do so. The teacher finds himself/herself obliged to give copies only to those who paid the fees; the others just sit back and watch. So, as a way to start to encourage teachers to use formative assessment, the administration should put xerox machines at the teachers’ disposal, who should not use them for any personal reasons.

Also, to conduct a formative assessment appropriately, classes shouldn’t be overcrowded in order for the teacher to be able to provide each student feedback. As Wiggins (1997) put it: “people can’t learn without feedback. It’s not teaching that causes learning. Attempts by the learner to perform causes learning. Dependent upon the quality of the feedback and opportunity to use it”. So, we need small class sizes in order to provide quality feedback and for students to be able to use it.

What I am talking about needs a real budget to be spent by the Ministry of Education on the educational system; however, it wouldn’t be as big as the one that was spent on the emergency program to reform the educational system or on the Pedagogy of Integration. These attempts to reform the educational system that have deceived and failed teachers and all workers in the domain. The ministry should first try to find solutions to the deteriorated conditions in which teachers work. It should start to provide teachers with appropriate teaching conditions, from equipped classrooms according to the subject being taught to the facilitation of the means of transportation to and from their work place and home. Instead of looking for solutions to the system of education, find solutions to the problems that teachers face every day in their schools and they will do their best to perform well and raise a generation of intellectuals. I don’t understand why the ministry of education is appointing teachers from the north in the south and vice-versa or teachers from rural areas to city schools and vice-versa. Isn’t it more logical that a teacher will be most at ease and do his/her best in his/her own environment? Time has come for the ministry to reconsider the appointment issue of novice teachers. The teacher will perform best in a familiar context rather than an alien one, because it will take enormous time to adapt to the new environment; if he/she fails to do so, the teacher will feel depressed and instead of putting energy to teach well, it will be allocated to survive.

One more point that the ministry should take into consideration is to give teachers enough motivation to perform well, starting from a decent salary that would meet the growing costs of living, to prizes for pedagogical researches. And why not give grants to ‘teachers of the year’ at the level of the school, delegation, region and why not the country. Nothing works best to push someone to do well in his/her job than appreciation through a good salary. The ultimate motivator of people is money, no matter what values, beliefs or social and economic background one has. It’s the human-being’s natural motivator; that’s the ugly truth.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Teacher of English at a secondary school in Ain Harrouda, near Casablanca. He obtained a Bachelor of Art  in English Literature at the University of Mohammed V, Rabat. He has TEFL certificate from The Regional Pedagogical Center of Tangier.(
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved ============================================

Top Mountains Film Festival to honor Moroccan Amazigh Art in Ifran and Azerou
By Yassmine Zerrouki  Morocco World News  Fez, March 7,2012

Al Akhawayn University and the Youth Center of Azrou are organizing the second edition of the Top Mountains film festival. This year’s festival, which will be held from 8-9 March, will honor Morocco’s female Amazighi artists.  The festival is being co-organized by the Association of the Screen Club for Childhood and Youth, in Azrou, the Moroccan Cinematographic Center (CCM), the Royal Institute of Amazighi Culture and the province of Ifran.  Amazighi artists to be honored include Fatima Tehihit, Fatima Attef, the young actress Saida Abouda and the music bands ‘‘Banat al Maghreb’’and “Boughanim”.

Festival attendees include intellectuals, civil society activists, filmmakers and artists, including judge Rachida Ahfoud, presenter of the TV program ‘‘Moudawala’’ on Al OulaTV, Abed el Kabir Arkakena,  Abedou Messnaoui and Abed Ali Bousfiha.  The festival’s program will also include a seminar to discuss the identity of Amazighi movies and ways to further develop them.  The seminar will be run by researchers and cinema critics including Hassan Ahejij, Ibrahim Hassnaoui and Mohamed Sayeri.  The first day of the festival will be concluded by a showing of short Amazighi movies.

Amazighi movies will also be screened at the Youth Center of Azerou, followed by a discussion and an exhibition of paintings by the creative artists Moumen Rahma and Ouabi Abed Allah. The festival will also introduce “Ifran”, the latest book of Zahra El Nakrachi.
  © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved

Essaouira to host Alizés Musical Spring

Essaouira will host the 2012 "Alizés Musical Spring" festival from April 26th until April 29th, MAP reported on Wednesday (March 7th). Renowned and emerging Moroccan musicians will perform works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and other composers at the event.

France holds up Morocco as model for Arab Spring reforms
The Associated Press  Friday Mar. 9, 2012 RABAT, Morocco

The French foreign minister has held up Morocco as a model for the pro-democratic reforms of the Arab Spring. Alain Juppe told a press conference Friday during a visit to Morocco that the country was "on the road to democratization."

The North African kingdom, ruled by a hereditary monarch with total power, amended its constitution over the summer to increase the powers of the prime minister and the parliament. The move appeared to have defused the widespread protests over corruption and lack of freedoms in the country.

An opposition Islamist party dominated November elections and leads the new government, but its powers are closely circumscribed by the king's powerful court.

France is a close economic and political ally of Morocco.

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