How Teen Girls are Leading Their Own Revolution
Many articles have been written on the importance of including youth and women in national development and employment strategies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Despite all good intentions, however, women are still a small percentage of the labor force in Arab countries, and government programs are skewed towards young men because they are considered a priority as lifelong earners while women face the challenge, if they choose, of balancing work and families.
Successive US Administrations have made women's empowerment, employment, and education a priority in foreign assistance programming. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the Arab Spring has not been friendly to women's empowerment and youth enfranchisement, with few exceptions. One of them is Morocco.
Fifteen years after King Mohammed VI delivered a speech - soon after acceding to the throne - calling for extensive reforms to promote the role of women in society, the country's commitment is continually being tested and progressing. And the US government is helping by funding programs for youth, with a strong emphasis on inclusion. One such program has just concluded in Washington, DC, and I was fortunate to meet with the group on their last day.
The program is TechGirls, "a U.S. Department of State initiative, which is an international exchange program designed to inspire and empower girls from the Middle East and North Africa to pursue deeper levels of training in technology through hands-on skills development," as part of America's continuing commitment to advance the rights of women and girls around the world. The program's manager, since 2012, is Legacy International, which has been managing cultural exchange programs for 30 years.
According to Mary Helwig, VP of Legacy International, "While in the United States, TechGirls participate in an interactive technology and computer camp, join a tech company for a day of job shadowing, and participate in community service initiatives." This year's cohort included young women from seven Arab countries, and their energy and vision are great antidotes to the feelings of frustration with the lack of progress in the region.
We talked about entrepreneurship and what they want from their governments - mostly to provide the necessary eco-system of legal, financial, training, and incubating services - and how their experiences in the US gave them ideas about how to take initiatives when they return home.
It should come as no surprise that the TechGirls are avid bloggers, tweeters, and Facebook users. #TechGirls provides hourly tweets of their daily activities and daily Facebook postings filled with pictures and narrative.
They were able to pursue their interests in technology and community service during many of the program's activities. On their last evening, they visited with Girls Who Code DC and General Assembly, a meeting that brought together the 27 MENA participants with 30 young women from DC who share their passion for technology.
The program involved quite a wide variety of projects. For example, they started with a traditional summer camp experience at Global Youth Village, visited Virginia Tech University for an orientation to STEM programs, and spending a day on community projects after visiting Goodwill Industries in Roanoke.
The four Moroccan participants were Amina Abou Ali (16), who wants to take her experiences back home and motivate other young women to embrace technology; 17 year-old Karima Lakouz, who plans to use her interest in technology as a driving force to help close the gender gap in engineering and technology; Khadija Chaibi (17), who will start a club at her school that will offer weekly classes to better inform her peers who might otherwise be illiterate in information technology; and 16 year-old Rihab Boutadghart, who wants to be a doctor because the area where she lives lacks medical services, and who hopes to use her medical and technology skills to develop medical materials to help people.
They all were engaging, unafraid to speak their minds, clear in their interests in serving their communities, and encouraged by the many new friends they had made both within the group and in the US.
One of their most satisfying experiences was to get to know Americans beyond media stereotypes and to appreciate the diversity and hospitality they found here. In turn, they were interested in learning more about American perceptions of Morocco and its society.
To really get a sense of how the US is making very important investments in the youth of the MENA region, particularly those who have acquired English language skills and are grounded in technology, I encourage you to visit them on Facebook and experience US foreign assistance dollars well spent with young women who will change their communities.
Over the last few months, there has been a series of events in Morocco that have sparked a vigorous debate over cultural and social issues - and civil society activism on both sides - in a country widely known for its moderate approach to Islam and its embrace of diversity. It has certainly been an interesting few months in Morocco, with civil society using increased political space (the result of decades of reform) to air longstanding social and cultural questions.
The most recent development is today's verdict in Fez in the case of two men accused of beating up a man they alleged was homosexual. The two men tried for assault were convicted, sentenced to four months in jail, and each required to pay a fine of 500 dirhams. Both the trial itself and the ruling appearto be part of a steadfast commitment on the part of the government to uphold the rule of law.
Another instance, just last month, was the much-publicized case of two women in Inezgane who were arrested for public indecency for wearing dresses. In response, protestors took to the streets in Rabat in support of the two women, hundreds of lawyers registered to defend them, and porterunerobenespasunecrime (wearing a dress is not a crime) trended on Twitter. The women were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing in what the chief defense lawyer called "a victory not only for these two women, but for all members of civil society who mobilized."
And in March of this year, after societal consultations led by the National Human Rights Council, King Mohammed VI ordered that laws restricting abortion be loosened in the cases of rape and incest - an issue that likewise finds a diverse range of opinions in the Kingdom. (Notably, this isn't the first time the King has sought to deftly navigate public opinion on a "divisive" issue in order to promote women's rights - the 2004 reform of the family code was adopted in spite of Islamist opposition.)
One might look at these several cases and wonder where the country is headed, and whether it's going in the right direction - if there even is one. This is as open to debate as questions of "morality" currently being discussed in the Kingdom.
There is no blueprint for navigating social change, nor is there only one right way to evaluate progress on cultural and social issues without attention to the mores and societal environment of any given place. Morocco is engaged in a delicate balancing act between tradition and modernity, working, as it has for many years, to achieve compromise and stability in a society with competing views - traditional, modern, and everywhere in between.
The important thing is that Morocco is having this open debate - and as is the case with a number of issues (reform, decentralization, etc.), it is one of the only countries in the region doing so. It is certainly an evolving experiment, but with government and civil society engaged, the country will find its own path forward. As it always has.
Moroccan Women Affected by Sexual Harassment Share Their Views
Sunday 9 August 2015 - Fatine Meziane Elotmani Casablanca
In the last few weeks, negative headlines concerning the violation of women’s rights in the Kingdom of Morocco have been dominating the Moroccan media landscape.
Although sexual harassment has been discussed over and over again, it remains an issue that women continue to endure on a daily basis. Women walking alone on the streets often times find themselves in a rush, not enjoying a simple walk due to fear of being harassed.
It is a serious problem for Moroccan society that women feel unsafe or frightened to walk on the streets. In spite of that, it is believed that catcalling is difficult to prevent since it has been embedded into the culture. It has become a habit.
Equally important to note, street harassment affects all women regardless of age, shape, appearance or race. Yet, Moroccan women rarely talk about this openly because it is seen as embarrassing and the woman‘s own fault.
On the streets, every female is literally on her own when a man approaches her uninvitedly. Some people think the woman likes the attention, while others simply do not care to intervene as it does not concern their own private space.
The testimonies below further prove that this can no longer be tolerated. This is what some Moroccan women have to say on sexual harassment:
Leila A. (22), a translation student in Rabat says: “I see it and live it every day. It makes me crazy and it makes me want to punch them. Sometimes I try to not pay attention and it doesn’t really bother me. But sometimes when I am alone in some weird streets or when it gets dark outside, I get scared because the harassment might go a bit too far.”
Saadia H. (44), a housemaid from Rabat openly expresses: “I feel that Moroccan men are sexually frustrated. Not all, but the ones that harass women in a rude manner. By that I mean, those following you around like stalkers, even touching you or verbally insulting you and putting you down. I got used to it, but when I see girls being harassed, I can only shake my head. May God give us the patience we need. That’s all I can say.”
Jihane B. (35), a secretary from Casablanca says: “I think it’s a shame that in the year 2015 some men still don’t know the difference between flirting and sexual harassment. I have been harassed a lot. It’s frightening! You can wear whatever, and they would still annoy you and stare at you. I wish there would be more policemen out there. Maybe this will keep those men at ease.”
Fouzia R. (15) a high-school student from Casablanca says: “In my opinion, men harass women because they have some problems with their self-confidence. I once talked to my elder brother about this and he told me, ‘I would never run after a woman on the street that clearly feels uncomfortable with the situation, nor would I give compliments to a stranger. I have pride.’ So, I think that if men would think more like my brother, sexual harassment in Morocco could be lessened. Parents have to teach their sons respect and values at ayoung age… I guess a lot of parents don’t have those conversations with their sons in their early stages of puberty, in regards to sex, women and respect…”
Saadia F. (52), a housewife from Casablanca says: “It hurts Morocco. It hurts the citizens. It shouldn’t exist, but we somehow have to live with it. I always tell my daughters to be careful and to run away if someone is approaching them inappropriately. My two daughters are taking self-defense classes. I think a woman should know how to defend herself. Morocco is a beautiful country, but as you can see it’s a country that still needs a lot of improvement.”
Maryam N. (29) a mother says: “During my pregnancy, I thought men would understand that I am married and leave me alone, but I was always bothered by horrible comments that I do not want to recall at the moment. Sexual harassment is everywhere in Morocco and all women suffer from it, even young girls and also pregnant women. It’s a nightmare.”
These candid testimonies depict the reality of a nation where women are being molested.A video produced by GlobalGirlMedia called “Breaking The Silence: Moroccans Speak Out on Sexual Harassment” serves as a good starting point to pressure society to act upon this ongoing issue with concrete and permanent solutions.
Tafrouat Organizes Collective Wedding Ceremony (Video)
Sunday 9 August 2015 - 13:49 Rabat
The tenth edition of the Festival of Tifawin (meaning light in Amazigh) held from August 6 though out 9, in Tafraout, a small town in Tiznit Province.
To encourage the youth to tie the knot and start a marital life, the Festival, in collaboration with their partners, organized a collective wedding ceremony for the local people in “very jovial and festive moments.”
The festival comprises a variety of cultural, educational and social activities including the writing and spelling contest of the Tifinagh, Amazigh alphabet, which are being taught in Moroccan primary schools.
Art Winding Through the Maze of Moroccan Educational System
Tuesday 11 August 2015 - By Mohamed Bella Marrakech
Trying to find the word “art” in the educational system in Morocco is like looking for a needle in a haystack. How such a multicultural country with a rich culture and civilization is trapped in a maze when it comes to including art in its education curriculum is beyond belief. The arts were born in Morocco centuries ago by people who have left an impact on the social structure of Moroccan society. This country, located in the north of Africa with an eclectic mix of people from various backgrounds, has been influenced over a millennia by the art of Muslims, Berbers, Jews, Sub-Saharan Africans, Christians, Phoenicians, Romans, and Andalusians.
Art, inherited from our ancestors and passed on through the years and across generations, surrounds us every second of our daily lives in Morocco. As Moroccan citizens, we live and breathe the immortal heritage that permeates the country in every direction; from south to north and from west to east. The spirit of art is always with us, even though we may be unaware of it.
Art’s soul is there and it will last forever as long as there’s life in the universe. Unfortunately, in recent years, our beloved society has become blind and deaf to this beauty. We have become so busy trying to become someone else that we have lost our own identity as human beings. Arts education has been struggling through a maze.
In Morocco, few schools integrate arts education in their educational curriculum. It is the job of our esteemed government to make an effort to fix this serious problem. Nowadays, the government is working on all areas of education except art. We cannot develop our country unless we develop art. The government, academics, and the private sector have roles to play in the development of art and increasing awareness of the benefits of an arts education.
Arts education is a primary means of developing critical and creative thinking in students. Studies prove that arts education helps students develop various skills such as creativity, imagination, communication, and teamwork. For instance, a report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) titled “Art for Art’s Sake” listed some fundamental points in improving students’ skills. Arts education has a positive impact on the subsets of skills defined as “skills for innovation”: subject-based skills (including non-arts subjects), skills in thinking and creativity, and behavioral and social skills.
Infusing the arts into the school curriculum increases critical thinking. The OECD study says that music education strengthens IQ (intelligence quotient) and academic performance, and may facilitate foreign-language training. Theater education strengthens verbal skills. Visual arts strengthen geometrical reasoning. Drama enhances empathy and emotion regulation. Researchers have also found that artists possess the type of mindsets sought after in the job market, such as observation, persistence, and stretching oneself. Arts graduates are among the most likely to hold highly innovative jobs.
The OECD report clearly expressed the impact of arts education on other non-arts skills and on innovation. The report stated that arts education can play an important role in enhancing performance in non-arts academic subjects such as mathematics, science, reading, and writing, and can strengthen students’ academic motivation, self-confidence, and ability to communicate and co-operate effectively. Rabea Ataya, the CEO of Bayt.com, Middle East’s most established job site, says employers are searching for young people with a good arts education, and they pay them well.
The OECD report also focused on an essential element of the arts being studied outside of school, such as in private music lessons, classes in theater, visual arts, and dance. There can be no doubt that art is a fundamental component to successful learning for children. However, a child’s first exposure to the arts is often through family rituals and traditions, so parents should be aware of all art forms. But parents should not be the only ones who are responsible for children’s art education, but society should provide suitable places for learning art for people in all social classes.
The importance of the arts has been investigated by Daniel Pink in his book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.” Pink describes how the future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers, or creative and holistic “right-brain” thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.
One should be proud that the arts have always been a rich part of the Arab world’s history and culture. Islamic art dating back to the seventh century is still celebrated today for its immense impact on architecture, painting, crafts, and literature. Morocco’s educational curriculum should include the arts, and Morocco should institute after school programs that include the arts.
Why the Timitar music festival is a window on Moroccan identity
Neil van der Linden August 9, 2015
Every summer, Morocco hosts a wide variety of national and regional musical festivals. While the country is arguably not any more diverse than other North African or Middle East states, the Moroccan authorities have a strong tradition of supporting local culture.
There are some general pop festivals in Rabat and Casablanca that host mainstream international artists such as Beyoncé and Elton John. Other festivals are more specialised. The Sacred Music Festival of Fes highlights the diverse genres of Moroccan and Sufi music. Meanwhile, The Gnaoua Festival of Essaouira is dedicated to gnaoua music, which developed in communities of former African slaves who, when converting to Islam, kept a part of their spiritual traditions. And there is the major Timitar festival in Agadir, now in its 12th year and which I’ve just returned from. It’s dedicated to the music of the surrounding Souss region and its language but has expanded to cover other areas.
The Timitar festival each year features the leading singing musicians of the Souss, this year for instance Hindi Zahra, Aït Laati and Fatima Tihihit, all of them totally unknown outside Morocco. In fact many Moroccans cannot understand their Berber words. Apart from local performers, there were national stars like the “chaabi” (popular) singers Daoudia and Stati. The festival also gives room to Morocco’s contemporary alternative music, for instance the excellent N3rdistan, definitely a Moroccan equivalent of Lebanon’s Machrou Leila or Zeid Hamdan, and rapper Don Bigg, whose texts about corruption and political prisoners sung on a government-supported stage are an another indication of Morocco’s give-and-take policies. And then there are international acts such as Diana Haddad, Rabih Abou Khalil, Vieux Farka Touré, Bashar Khalife and the singing minister of culture of Cape Verde, Mario Lucio.
The Souss music is a sheer delight. It uses the five-note scale that is characteristic of African and East Asian music. The music easily becomes trancelike, and at other moments unintentionally or intentionally gets funky. This is helped sometimes by an electric version of the traditional banjo, but also an electric guitar and bass is added, here and there.
The national star, Daoudia, was another highlight. She sings and plays the violin, holding it in the Moroccan vertical way, while standing, one leg resting on a bench. With her long, blond hair flowing on the breeze of the evening wind she adopted a heroine appearance, suiting her powerful voice and the ecstatic character of her music.
One may wonder why Moroccan chaabi music is completely unknown outside the country, as it is so exciting. But one reason is that for the Arab world outside Morocco, the Moroccan Arabic dialect is almost as incomprehensible as its Berber languages.
Maybe it also is because of the typical Moroccan rhythms and metres, often three beats where in other music there are two or four. And maybe it is because Moroccans like their music somewhat raw, and Daoudia, although being very urban, is definitely still “folksy” with her rough sounding violin. The music is, moreover, difficult to record well in slick sounding audio and video formats. That is what makes it so strong when it is performed live.
The Moroccan policy of funding and initiating cultural diversity, then, seems to be paying off. Despite Berber feelings of disenfranchisement within the larger Moroccan society not being fully resolved, the country has still defused the level of ethnic tensions its neighbour’s have had.
Cultural self-awareness may also be a barrier against religious fanaticism, and festivals also attract tourism, a welcome incentive for local economies.
And they are a format to preserve valuable traditions before they might disappear under the pressure of modernity. That traditions then are transposed from their original environment to a big stage, where they will mutate somewhat, is something that has to be acknowledged. But at least in this way they survive, instead of vanishing the moment they are not being performed anymore at home.
Neil van der Linden curates music events in the Middle-East and North Africa, founded and edits the online Gulf Art Guide and writes about Middle East music for Songlines.
Moroccan Keeps Promise for 70 Years to Clean Grave of His Friend’s Jewish Ancestors
Thursday 30 October 2014 - 22:38 Rabat
A Moroccan man from Arazan, a small village located at few kilometers from Taroudant in southern Morocco, has kept a promise for over 70 years to cleaning the grave of his friend’s Jewish ancestors.
The man’s name is Lahcen. One winter day in the early 1950s, his friend Moshe, a Moroccan Jew, and his family were forced to leave Morocco for Israel. Moshe asked his friend, Lahcen, to take care of the graves of his ancestors.
According to Mr. Omar Louzi, President of the Rabat Business Club, Lahcen promised to honor the request, loyal to the friendship he had with his Jewish friends. For more than 60 years, at the beginning of each year, Lahcen has been cleaning the graves of the ancestors of his Jewish friend.
Despite his meager resources, Mr. Louzi said that at the beginning of each year, Lahcen bought a small box with black paint and re-writes the names originally written on the graves in Hebrew. What is amazing about Lahcen’s loyalty is that he honored the request, while he never been to school.
Now, despite his old age, Lahcen is adamant about keeping his promise. According to Mr. Louzi, “when someone dares to say that “it is now old, and he has already done enough to honor his promise”, he gets angry, and answers, “A promise is a promise.” He added that he “will continue to do what I have to do … until the return of my friend Moshe … or until I die”.
Lahcen’s noble gesture embodies the atmosphere of tolerance and coexistence that prevailed between the Jewish and Muslim Moroccans in the past before their emigration to Israel and other countries.
Edited by Timothy Filla
Recipe: Braised Moroccan-style lamb shanks & tomato couscous
LAURENT LOUDEACJuly 28 201
This is a comforting, flavourful dish that's best enjoyed with a nice glass of red wine.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large lamb hind shanks (I like to use hind shanks rather than fore shanks as they're bigger – ask your butcher for them)
200ml red wine
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only, washed, diced 1cm
1 stick celery, sliced diagonally
1 large carrot, peeled, diced 1cm
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ras el hanout*
2 bay leaves
1 litre beef stock
400g can chickpeas,"drained, rinsed
2 cups couscous
2 pinches of salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
2 large tomatoes, deseeded, diced
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
2. Heat half the oil in a large frying pan.
3. Sear the shanks all over until browned then remove from the pan and set aside.
4. Add the wine to the pan and let it boil, scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon. Boil until reduced by half. Transfer the wine to a casserole dish.
5. Heat the remaining oil in a clean frying pan then add the garlic, onion, leek, celery, carrot, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and ras el hanout.
6. Fry, stirring, for 5-7 minutes or until lightly coloured. Add to the casserole dish, along with the bay leaves.
7. Add the browned shanks to the casserole dish, along with enough of the stock to just cover the shanks.
8. Cover with a lid or foil then transfer to the oven and cook for 21⁄2-3 hours or until the lamb is falling off the bones.
9. Remove the shanks to a warmed platter and strain the cooking liquid through a sieve (reserve the vegetables).
10. Put the strained cooking liquid in a clean saucepan and gently bring to the boil, skimming frequently, until reduced by half.
11. Add the reserved vegetables and chickpeas and heat until warmed through then serve with the lamb and couscous (recipe follows).
An Account of the Last Days Before the Exodus of Moroccan Jews
Thursday 13 August 2015 - Karla Dieseldorff Miami
On August 10th, a rarely seen vintage video from 1965 surfaced on YouTube under the name “The Last Jews of Morocco Rare Archive 2015 HD.” The sepia-toned video is “an account of the last days of an ancient Jewish community” presented by The United Jewish Appeal (UJA).
Produced and directed by Arnan Zafrif, fully narrated by Herbert A. Friedman, Executive Vice-Chairman of the UJA, the video seems to have been made as a call-to-action in order to raise $109.4 million to get Jewish population of the time out of Morocco.
The video opens with beautiful images of Casablanca “The Jewel of Morocco” and quickly contrasts them with images of the “Mellah of Casablanca,” the ‘city inside the city’ or as Friedman calls it, “the ghetto, crowded, squalid, dark” area where 60,000 Jews once lived .
Life conditions for the Jews of the “Mellah” are depicted as “poor, bearing on misery;” it was “the way of the world.” The poor remained poor and everything remained the same generation after generation; until 1943 when American Jews intervened and helped this Jewish community.
The Joint Distribution Committee of the United Jewish Appeal brought them help in much-needed ways. The video shows distribution of food, medicines, education, parks for recreation, crafts, markets, etc. The modern world of the era had come to the “Mellah.” Children dancing and singing; simply enjoying life among Jewish traditions and prayers.
Friedman claims that this prosperity came to a halt in 1955 when the French left Morocco. This changed the life of the Jews; now they were living within “an independent Arab state.” Aside from the “Mellah of Casablanca”, many other villages located in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco where populated by Jews. Villages are described as isolated. “A few hundred miles and 20 centuries behind from Casablanca.”
These Jews ”were now living in fear.” Morocco’s independence was great for the Arabs, but not for them, according to the video. This change brought a new awakening of survival and freedom to their communities. The well-off and educated Jews were concerned for the elder, as well as their own children. According to Friedman’s account, this sentiment was felt throughout Morocco, especially in the village of Agouim, where the rest of the video centers its attention.
Even in the mid 1950’s, Agouim was the typical Jewish village of biblical times with farmers, herdsmen, workers of the land, and followers of the Jewish law. The UJA shows us fragments of what is known as the Exodus of Jews from Morocco.
This so-called Exodus was well-planned and entire Jewish villages packed their lives, their “Holy Scrolls,” even signs on door posts were removed, and they left at nighttime amidst a mix of commotion, fear, and uncertainty.
Interestingly, the Jews of Morocco did not abandon their villages without a “farewell visit” to pay respect to the “graves of the fathers” with chants and prayers. We see how “rosters” of villages were taken to account for every Jew.
Families remained together and off they parted from their once Jewish villages, in search of a new life. They left on donkeys and by foot along with their belongings. The villages of the High Atlas like Agouim were now empty. Entire Jewish communities of every social status boarded “tourism” buses that drove them out to shore. They crossed the seas aboard large boats. Friedman narrates that more than 250,000 Jews left Morocco at the time.
Video included here: http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2015/08/165427/an-account-of-the-last-days-before-the-exodus-of-moroccan-jews/
Video: Lost in Morocco’s Wonderful Beauty
Tuesday 4 August 2015 - 05:28
The Cultural Switch Gear of Social Change in Morocco
Tuesday 4 August 2015 - By Mohammed Maarouf & Paul Willis
In The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, Weber delineated the work of cultural switch gears, how in the case of Christian faith, religious ideas influence the way western societies organize their economic dealings. People’s business lives seem to be steered by religious ideas, which indicates that western capitalism emanates from cultural foundations. This rationalization locates culture on the opposite side of the causal chain. In contrast to the Marxist theory of social reflection, stating that material change leads to cultural change, Weber states that culture causes or influences the social world. Of course, people may pursue material interest but it is their cultures and mentalities that shape how they pursue their interest. In a famous metaphor, Weber compares the role of culture to a railroad switchman: “not ideas, but material and ideal interest, directly govern men’s conduct. Yet very frequently the “world images” that have been created by “ideas” have, like switchman, determined the tracks along which action has been pushed by the dynamic interest” (1946, p. 280).
During its beginnings, Western capitalism set the tracks along religious images of predestination and calling. The methodical Christianization of western life prompted social agents to labour hard in such calling, and they hardly enjoyed their profits because self-indulgence for them might be a curse. The result was the growth of capital and the continuity of capitalistic investment. This spirit of capitalism endured even after religious beliefs declined in Europe! It is still a vivid example that lays bare the ability of cultural exegesis to complement structural explanations, and evinces the usefulness of the “cultural switchman” logic.
How should we understand Morocco in this light? Is there a local adaptive culture at work concomitant with the inventions of modernity sweeping Morocco, or does Moroccan society suffer a cultural lag? Despite Morocco’s smooth transition and step-by-step reform, there is still a strong debate whether the reforms have been sufficient to transform Morocco into a legitimate democracy with strong institutions the masses may trust instead of incessantly addressing their grievances to the King in every detail of their life. The Average Moroccan holds the King responsible for building a small road, school or hospital in his city or village, which evinces the king as the only reliable and working institution in the average Moroccan’s mind. As Malik and Awadallah (2011) observe, “de jure reforms do not automatically result in effective change. This is because elites have a remarkable ability to endure, they can reverse change, or mould it in their favor” (2011, 2). According to this political economy perspective, even if we supplant current political players by new ones, the situation will never radically change because it is a mere reconfiguration of the structures of power; the system remains intact. According to Malik and Awadallah, so far as the basic economic structure does not change, nothing changes. Egypt is a good example, Hosni Mubarak departs but the structure that underpins his rule survives, so another military figure comes to power. It is hardly likely now that the army may commit itself to its own dismantling?
To complement what Malik and Awadallah argue, though, we believe with Max Weber that culture can also lead! We think that the cultural switch gear – the micro ways in which everyday cultural meanings and worldviews condition and channel the currents of larger change – is central to the ongoing political reforms in Morocco. Normally shaping a modernist switch gear in times of crisis of change would be a leadership task for state institutions but in Morocco the state is a problem as well as a potential solution. So, the vital tasks fall to civil society as well. As a matter of fact, the disciplinary power of the rentier state penetrates deep in Moroccan society and is dispersed through its societal institutions to the extent that the prospects of social change often appear to be chimerical. In this respect, we are plagued by the same question we raised regarding the Egyptian political situation. Will the structures of power dismantle the rentier economic base that supports them? The answer in the case of Morocco depends on the power brokers’ farsightedness and how they envisage a multifaceted approach to reform.
Indeed, there is undoubtedly a looming danger that threatens the country’s stability due to the fragile still-rent-based economy and domestic, regional and international challenges that the Moroccan state faces at this stage. It is clear that any grievance anywhere in any segment of the population could incite popular upheaval at any moment. Actually we have no immediate choice, faint hope as it is, but to rely on the wisdom of militant power brokers under the leadership of the monarchy to unite society on an ambitious cultural reform while deconstructing the rent-based economic structures that support the current status quo. But more, it is the general rentier culture and the rentier cultural mentality which pose the most intractable problems. Tackling this lies at the root of a progressive social reform for Moroccans.
But we have to be optimistic; it is never too late to start a cultural war on the ills of the rentier cultural mentality. Even the monarch has recently put emphasis on prioritizing cultural capital in national and local politics. We think it is high time! What we call the cultural switch gear must be widely conceived and seen as running interactively through all of social space, not just top-down from the King. The culture for citizenship is not simply a course to be taught at school as it is done now. It is a matter of encouraging a way of life and life-long training in both institutional and informal contexts of everyday life. There should be an unflinching political determination to unite society on this project. A whole array of cultural resources should be mobilized for this ideal.
It is not the work of ideological institutions alone. Even the repressive institutions should participate in disseminating such ideology. Take the example of the role of the police in some western societies and how their institution(s) are involved in visits to school and other educational institutions, and offer work placements to students or the widespread examples of students’ short-term military call-ups, or civic organization volunteer work practiced in other countries. A doctor trained on labor skills alone may be an expert in the profession but he/she also needs training in cultural citizenship to join the general struggle for emancipation.
We do not believe human nature, or human predisposition to be proto-social or proto-moral. This is all the work of history. We are imprinted by history and socially constructed identities. Commonly, most Moroccan doctors fall back on the reservoirs of religion to authenticate their altruism but this shield of faith is inadequate to the task and is fissured daily not least by the spear of capitalistic materialism. The religious discourse is a vital element in Islamic education but nowadays it can hardly resist the new paradigm of what Ritzer has called the `mcdonaldization` of modern societies. The traditional discourse on religion will hardly cope with the complexity of modern life.
At present, Moroccans cannot carry on living with and through ideological survivals of tribalism and capture of booties. They need to forge new allegiances and social bonds to cement the social fabric. They need to train themselves in dialogue and conflict management and acceptance of difference in order to recognize the liquidity of their lives, identities and social, political and economic relations. We do not live by essences but by plastic truths. It is new cultural discourses on religion, secularism and organic cultures of the people that may save Morocco. The Moroccan school, family and religious institutions as they stand now cannot fight fraud and corruption.
De facto the Makhzanian strategy of containment and policy of daily patching and assuagement may win time but with potential disastrous consequences for them in the long run, especially if the process of awakening—no matter how it is communicated—reaches far deep at the bottom of social space. The political demands are clear: political inclusion, building democracy and civil society on the ground; building transparent and accountable security and justice systems; securing fast steady production-based economic growth; establishing public confidence by creating strong legitimate institutions that guarantee real freedom of speech, meaningful participation in institutional process and decision making; real moves towards social protection, social security, subaltern education and respect for the rule of law.
No one denies the significant economic reforms the state has recently accomplished at the bottom of social space to alleviate the suffering of the poor but it is characterized by an incrementalism that has not yet reached to the core issues. Moroccans are still demanding deep reforms. No political, cultural and economic reform will achieve desired results if there is no collective will to transform the factionalist-oriented political system into a participative system involving all segments of society and the rent-based economy into a production-based one where accountability and reward underwrite effort and risk-taking in industry, labor and commerce. No reform will succeed if there is no collective will to build the bricks of a culturally sensitive mode of politics and mobilize society towards foregrounding the importance of cultural development for citizenship; otherwise, the counter-hegemonic currents may fail leaving Morocco in stagnation, at peril simply of painfully and tragically reproducing what has so far been struggled against.
To maintain and strengthen currents of change, discourses on citizenship, democracy and human rights must be formed in, and linked to, sensuous cultural practices and local cultural meaning—making so that citizenship learnt in the informal context of everyday life becomes lucid in the subaltern mind as a familiar thing, as a recognizable cultural citizenship. The learning dimension of citizenship must be seen, analyzed and managed as a constructivist project which empowers bottom-up cultural forms and implicates subalterns in self-critique and self-development of their own cultural models. Understanding the cultural switch gear, and developing switches and switchmen for a micro cultural switch gear is an essential ingredient for the counter-hegemonic struggle in Morocco today.
CREDIT: FADEL SENNA
Dr. Mohammed Maarouf is with Chouaib Doukkali University, Morocco. Dr. Paul Willis is with Beijing Normal University, China
Impact Of Moroccan Students’ Attitudes Towards English On Speaking Skill – Part 2
Sunday 2 August 2015 Zakaria Bziker Kenitra
This study relies on a questionnaire that was given to two sample groups: 1st year math science BAC stream and 1st year experimental science BAC stream. The first consists of 31 student participants and the second consists of 29 student participants, 60 participants in total. (To read about the finding of the study click here)
Class streams can have an effect on attitudes and thus we sought having two different streams. The questionnaire consists of bi-polar adjective scale, likert scale, open-ended questions, and closed-ended questions. Another questionnaire was designed for teachers. This questionnaire serves to provide insights from the perspective of teachers. It consists of bi-polar scale questions, likert scale, closed-ended questions (multiple choice questions), and open-ended questions. The students’ questionnaire was administered on May the 19th and 20th, 2014, starting from 3 P.M. on both days at Mohamed V high school in Kénitra. With the help of the host teacher and one of my classmates, we were able to fill in 31 questionnaires the first day. Then in the second, we were able to fill in 29 questionnaires. Students were enthusiastic about filling in the questionnaires. Many volunteered that we could not have them all participate in the study.
Many variables have been considered so as to observe and understand their role as well as to ensure having different perspectives to our dependent variables, namely oral proficiency. It is imperative that at this point to state the complex nature of the research problem. We have two main variables, an independent and a dependent one. Oral proficiency is the dependent variable. Attitudes are the independent variable. However, our independent variable (attitudes) is in itself dependent when we consider some other sub-independent variables such as age, sex, motivation, teachers’ influence, media influence, self-image, culture, and so on and so forth. So we have three layers of variables. First, we have the various independent variables that shape the general concept of attitudes students have towards English. Second, we have attitudes towards English as an agent in itself, which can be seen as dependent and independent variable depending on which lenses one choses to look from. Third, we have the ultimate dependent variable which is the speaking skill or oral proficiency. The goal is to, hopefully, relate the speaking skill proficiency to personal attitudes and to relate the personal attitudes to what determines their nature.
Given the scientific-inexactitude nature of this research, we tried to make it representative in other regards. For this particular study we opted for the 1st year BAC. The BAC final exam can have huge repercussions on students’ attitudes towards English although attitudes could still be relative to the wider circumstances students are in. The reason behind this choice is that 2nd year BAC students are more preoccupied with the final BAC exam. This in itself is a variable that should be eliminated. 1st years BAC students’ contributions to this study should be more spontaneous, instinctive, natural, transparent, reliable, unaffected, uninfluenced and mostly undisturbed as much as possible. We also tried to avoid subjects’ selection bias by having two different classes instead of one in order to avoid any preexisting similarities between students belonging to one class and to ensure a normal distribution of data. This would, hopefully, strengthen the internal validity of the research.
A true experimental study in cognitive and social sciences is a fictitious concept. Researchers in these fields try their best to approach the ideal or laboratory conditions. Attitudes, being a mental phenomenon, are not easy to study for they are vulnerable to almost anything and their operational definition is fluid. Student’s mood can be a factor affecting their judgment and attitudes in the moment of filling the questionnaires. Random selection was possible for teachers’ questionnaires given that the number of English teachers at Mohamed 5 high school is very limited, so we resorted to other high schools in the Gharb-Chrarda-Béni Hssen region.
For this particular research, the research design we opted for is the Ex Post Facto design. It follows that the research endeavor is but to find relations and correlations between the dependent and independent variables. Proving causal relationships is beyond reach. However, the direction and strength of the correlation between variables are possible in this research design and they provide significant explanations. Also, this design does not experiment attitudes but simply reads facts and makes associations. The variables are not controlled but filtered. The data drawn from the research is mostly numerical and relies on frequency distribution, and thus this is a quantitative research (only 2 open questions in student’s questionnaire and 3 open ones in teacher’s questionnaire) and descriptive in its type.
Dara Analysis: Attitudes towards Western Culture
Students’ attitudes towards the Western culture are relatively balanced (positive 38%, negative 23%, indifferent 38%). This seems to suggest that Moroccan students have mixed feelings about Western culture. Parents do hold relatively similar attitudes (positive 30%, negative 32%, indifferent 38%). This indicates that students, to some extent, inherit their parents’ attitudes towards Western culture. For example, all parents that hold negative attitudes towards Western culture (13 parents) have children (students) who hold either negative or indifferent attitudes towards Western culture and they consist 92% (12 out of 13). Therefore, the influence of parents is observed. However, students appear to have more positive attitudes and less negative ones compared to their parents. This suggests that the younger generation is more accepting of foreign cultures than their parents. This observation is backed up with peers and friends’ attitudes. 58% Participants think that their friends and peers have positive attitudes in contrast with their parents (30%) and themselves (38%). Only 22% think their friends and peers have negative attitudes in contrast with parents (32%) and themselves (23%). This is a clear indication that the younger generation is more open to Western culture.
Attitudes towards the English language
With respect to the language, students, parents, and students’ peers and friends seem to agree on having more positive attitudes towards the English language than towards Western culture (students: 65%, parents: 62%, peers and friends: 72%). This suggests that Moroccans are more accepting of the language than of the Western culture despite the late appearance of English teaching in Moroccan schools. It is further noticed in this study that the stream of math science have 0% negative attitudes towards English and the same goes for their parents. This is probably due to the growing awareness of hardworking students towards the importance and the practical use of English as a lingua franca of the world. This is also seen in the fact that majority of the sample students learn English because they feel they need it (41%) whereas the rest learn it because either they like it or simply because it is in the curriculum. Students learn English also because of their intrinsic motivation. 40% learn it because they like it.
In addition to that, less students, parents, and friends and peers have negative attitudes towards the language compared to the high percentage of those who hold negative attitudes towards Western culture (Students: 10%, parents: 17%, peers and friends: 18%). This openness towards the English language might be a local characteristic belonging to the inhabitants of Kénitra due to the presence of Americans in the middle of the 20th century. In 1942, the U.S. government made the military airport in Kénitra its military base. By 1950, nearly 10,000 Americans occupied the base making it one of the largest overseas aggregations of Americans at the time (NARA).
Social status of English language in Morocco
English enjoys a high social status in Morocco. It is invading all aspects of life. According to the present findings, 17% of the teacher population think that students’ main motivation stems only from the social status of English in morocco. Besides, a great deal of sample students in their turn feels proud when they utter phrases and words in English when with their friends. 68% like to learn English in particular as being a foreign language. All this makes English a privileged language in a country where French is an official one. 50% of students prefer learning French instead of English among whom 97% (30 out of 31) either have an average level or good level in French. It is unclear whether this means that they like learning French because they are good at it or they are good at it because they like learning it? Some of them explain that they like learning French “because I have studied French for 14 years.” or because “its weighing is greater than that of English.”
We also have the other 50% of students who like learning English instead of French. 50% is not bad for a language that is considered ‘foreign’. The participants present different sorts of reasons. Some of them are:
“English is an international language.”
“English is easier.”
“I am not good at French”
“I lack basics in French.”
“French is difficult.”
This has huge implications. The English language seems to have different advantages over French. The majority of students seem to agree that English is easier than French which explains the modern tendency towards English among Moroccan students, and those who claim that French is easier generally have negative attitudes towards English and they consist 84% (5 out of 6) of the remaining 37%. So, do they have negative attitudes because they think English is difficult or they think it is difficult because they have negative attitudes? In addition to that, students who prefer to learn English instead of French seem to have a low level in French. Filtering the results shows that 100% of students who claim their French is no good are the same ones that claim their bad experience with French is what, as a result, pushed them to give more importance to English.
In general, 28% of students give more importance to English as a result of their traumatic experience with French. So why is it the case that almost one quarter of the sample students seek refuge in English? Could this be a matter of methods and approach to language teaching? Using outdated and mechanical methods can generate frustration among students that may lead to giving up learning the language. Given that most of the teaching literature and the latest researches in the domain are published in English, English teachers seem to have access to the latest theories and approaches to teaching whereas French teachers have to look for translated works. So maybe English teachers are well situated and more up-to-date. On the other hand, those students who have had a good experience with the French language feel that French helped them understand English more since the two languages are close in vocabulary. This segment consist 53% of the sample population whereas those who think that their French is good and suffices them English consist only a minority of 12%. This indicates that English is appreciated among those students that are good at French and those who are not. In general, English is well reputed in Morocco and that in itself is a source of positive attitude.
The evidence suggests that the role of the teacher is decisive in determining students’ attitudes towards the language. 88% of sample students claim they have had a teacher that influenced their attitudes towards English. This emphasizes the central role teachers have in learning the language. The evidence also suggests that the majority of these teachers have had a positive influence on their students. It seems that three quarters of English teachers are doing a good job at influencing their students’ attitudes in a positive way for only a quarter that have a had negative influence on their students. This could also be due to the way English teachers teach English, for example the frequent use of the communicative approach, which is something the findings support. According to the findings, most teachers, in teaching the speaking skill, use the communicative approach and here are some of their responses to the question: ‘how do you go about teaching speaking?’:
“Motivate students to speak at random occasion.”
“Student to student interaction.”
“Communicating within a context.”
“Free communication practices that is preceded by setting the scene.”
“Activities that allow students to speak their mind freely.”
“Stimulating them to randomly speak in class.”
The use of the communicative approach is less monotonous and less boring unlike the direct or audio-lingual method.
“Among criticisms of the audio-lingual method have been the slowness and monotony of oral drills and the overemphasis on memorization and mimicry.” (Lawrence, 1966:48)
In general, and based on the results, the Moroccan English teacher, in their turn, participates in giving positive attitudes to students by their savoir-faire (managerial/management skills) and savoir-être (interpersonal skills).
Peers and friends
Peers and friends have huge influence in affecting students’ attitudes. The findings show that almost one quarter of students would utter phrases and words in English just because their friends and peers do so. This indicates that students’ behaviors are unconsciously driven by the inclination towards being identified and assimilated with the group regardless of one’s intrinsic inclinations. In social psychology, this phenomenon is called assimilation and it is, according to Bogardus, the “process whereby attitudes of many persons are united and thus develop into a unified group.” (quoted in R. K. Sharma and ?R. Sharma 1997:230). As seen earlier, 72% of students think their friends and peers have positive attitudes towards English. This, probably, would eventually make the minority fuse within the majority.
All in all, the present data show that students’ attitudes towards the English language are positive. The data also show that the socials status of English in Morocco, the influence of teachers, the influence of the media, and that of peers and friends have a relatively positive influence on students’ attitudes towards the language. This makes English an appreciated language along with its native-speakers’ community.
Students’ attitudes and the speaking skill
The rest of the data interpretation is devoted to the influence of attitudes on the speaking skill. Following the inductive approach to research, it is safe to assume, based on the previous findings, that Moroccans, in general, have positive attitudes towards the English language. It follows that they also have positive attitudes towards the speaking skill in particular. As seen earlier in the literature review, the most important skill for the learner is the speaking skill (Frey & Sadek, 1971; Harlow & Muyskens, 1994; Houston, 2005; Rivera & Matsuzawa, 2007; Tse, 2000; Walker, 1973). The case of Moroccan students is no exception. The survey shows that the majority (48%) of teachers’ participants see that speaking activities are the most enjoyed by students whereas only 39% enjoy listening, 13% enjoy reading, and 0% writing.
Thus, the findings seem to confirm previous studies and researches in this regard. The positive attitudes towards speaking among Moroccan students is partially due to media influence since, according to the present study, the majority of teachers think that the main source of motivation in learning English is Media (49%). This is highly probable since this study shows that students are exposed to a high number of American movies per week; 50% watch between 6 and 20 movies weekly. Moreover, in learning a foreign language, students think that the speaking skill is more crucial than writing. Only 17% think that writing is crucial to language learning. This 17% watch no more than 5, if not 0 movies weekly. 100% of those who watch between 6 and 20 movies a week claim that speaking is vital to language learning (after filtering the data). This confirms the high importance given to speaking and its correlation with media influence. This also supports the literature review; that speech is the most salient feature of a language and thus the learner may be more concerned with being able to make themselves noticed orally than in the written form.
Given that speaking is highly appreciated among students, what is then the concern of students when they speak in class? 64% of teachers think that their students do not listen in order to understand but only to give a quick response and be the first to participate or give answers. This is very significant for it implies that students’ main concern is to please the teacher. It appears that speaking just for the sake of speaking, in students’ view, is a sign of successful language learner, and thus it does not matter what students speak as much as they are able to speak. This is not surprising seeing that the majority think that speaking is crucial to language learning.
Another concern of students when they speak is to impress the teacher. The present study shows that no teacher claims that their students do not try to impress them when they speak (0%). All of the teachers claim that they get the impression of their students trying to impress them but they do, however, differ in frequency. 34% claim their students try to impress them either ‘usually’ or ‘always’. 65% (with 1% missing) claim their students try to impress them ‘sometimes’. Although the majority of teachers think their students do not frequently try to impress them; nevertheless, this concern is not nonexistent among students. Another thing to be mentioned here is that how can they impress their teachers if they are not good at English? Had students had a good level in English, which the present data does not indicate (The mean= 3.55 which is just a little above average), the frequency of impressing the teacher would have been higher.
The findings also show another concern of students. Clean language is one of students’ main preoccupations when speaking in class. The survey shows that 82% of students experience uneasiness with making mistakes when speaking in class. Additionally, in question 8 (see appendix) some teachers attribute students’ uneasiness with speaking to their preoccupation with language accuracy. Here are some of their responses:
“One should encourage students not to worry about grammatical mistakes or communication breakdown.”
“The problem with speaking is that students are reluctant to speak due to fear.”
“Students are shy. Some are afraid of making mistakes.”
“Students do not dare to speak for their lack of vocabulary and making mistakes.”
“Students are afraid of making mistakes.” “Some students refuse to speak in public. It takes me time to lower their affective filter. I try to choose a topic that matches their interests. I never interrupt them when they speak. I don’t correct their mistakes.”
“Students fear their peers to laugh at their mistakes. Make them aware that mistakes are the first step in learning.”
Additionally, and still with teachers’ responses, students give more importance to accuracy than to sounding native. In a scale from -3 to 3, in which -3 means too much emphasis on sounding native and 3 means too much emphasis on accuracy and 0 is equal emphasis for both. The mean is 0.95 which is inclined towards accuracy. Therefore, and based on the above responses, it seems that the concern of accuracy is muffling students, especially female ones. Those who are bothered with mistakes just ‘little’ or ‘not at all’ (after filtering the data) are mostly males and they consist 65% (20 out of 31). This suggests that females are more vulnerable to mistakes than males due to, maybe, their self-esteem and fear of embracement in front of their male peers. In general, this could be due to students’ unawareness of the natural and gradual order of the process of learning. This may make them impatient to speak correctly and thus they may not see the vital role mistakes play in the process of learning and may deem them harmful. For a healthy language learning process in terms of speaking proficiency, accuracy should not be a central focus for students and teachers.
According to the (Irish) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, accuracy in speaking is appreciated but it should not be the objective. The main motivator for students in speaking is not accuracy but the achievement of communication at any cost, even using gestures if necessary for that matter. Accuracy should be reinforced along without actually putting students off communication. Here comes the role of writing in doing the reinforcement of structure such as sequencing and tenses (NCCA, 2004:13). Prioritizing communication and making accuracy secondary is an acquired attitude that teachers can teach and instill in their students.
Another interesting concern of students is meaning and content. According to the present study, students show interest in making themselves understood. They seem to be aware of the importance of content and meaning in speaking. When contrasting content and meaning with accuracy, students divide themselves into two relatively equal halves. The goal of 48% students is to get their message out and be understood, whereas 52% see that uttering clean language is their main goal. This indicates that students are not neglecting the content and meaning when they speak although some may have the goal to impress their teachers. The survey also shows that teachers are aware of content-based instruction.
As seen earlier in how teachers influence their students’ attitudes, question 6 (see appendix) supports the use of both the communicative approach and content-based instruction. The mentioned responses clearly show that teachers, too, have the concern of prioritizing the content over the language. Unlike students’ concern with accuracy, having meaning and content as a goal is healthy for language learning and the literature supports that. According to Krashen & Terrell’s acquisition-learning hypothesis, language is a means and not a goal or an end in itself. It is best learnt when it is regarded by the learner as a tool to carry meaning but not a focus (1983:19).
Further, content-based instruction is of paramount importance in language learning (Brinton, Snow, & Wesche, 1989). It increases students’ motivation since students are highly influence by teaching instruments (Gardner, R.C. & MacIntyre, P.D.,1991). It also makes learning meaningful. According to (Ausubel 1968), leaning is meaningful when it is related to what we already know and thus new knowledge is easily inserted and fitted within the already existing cognitive structure. This notion, which is derived from cognitive psychology, is further elaborated in relation to language learning (Asher, 1982; Ellis, 1990; Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Lewis, 1993; Richards & Rodgers, 1986; Savignon, 1983; Wilkins, 1976).
Giving high priority to speech over other skills and to impressing the teacher is not without costs. Speech in general has always had priority over writing although “the traditional grammarian tended to assume that the spoken language is inferior to and in some sense dependent upon the standard written language.” (Lyons, 1968:38). The written language is but a symbolic representation of speech and it is a real loss of meaning if one follows Derrida’s line of thought. Moreover, speech is older and widespread (ibid). “all languages are primarily spoken and only secondarily written down, that the real life of language is in the mouth and ear and not in the pen and eye” (Jespersen 1922:23)
Nevertheless, the concern of this study is not to undermine in any way the importance of speech but to expose the intricate relation between (positive) attitudes and the speaking skill. Speaking is undoubtedly important and it is pointless to argue otherwise, but if it is given more importance than it actually deserves, the process of learning this skill may go off course and becomes disoriented. Having positive attitude towards the language is favorable, having positive attitudes towards the speaking skill is favorable as well, but how these positive attitudes are implemented is equally important, and if the learner forgets how much important communication strategies, prosodic features, and paralinguistic features of speech are, they become insensitive to the intelligibility of communication which is of very great importance as seen in the literature review. Teachers are equally responsible for this inattention. One of the teachers expresses that:
“Teachers are not competent in teaching communication strategies and they do not speak fluent English since they are not natives”
In going about teaching speaking, no teacher, according to current findings, mentions teaching sub-skills like the mentioned above. Some teachers even think that they do not even have time to teach speaking since the program of high school is tight and speaking is not tested in the final BAC exam, which (the exam) is the main objective of students and teachers alike. Additionally, No one mentions the use of fun stories, rhyme, poems, or songs in teaching their students speaking when this sort of activities are vital for teaching students the speaking sub-skills. The use of these activities is, however, questionable with the 1st year BAC since students might be considered ‘too old’ for this sort of activities. This is a call to rethink at what age should the English language be introduced to students in Moroccan public schools.
As seen in the literature review, accent is of paramount importance to students. Regardless of their English level, students are able to distinguish between a native and a none-native accent (Kelch & Santana-Williamson) and of course they show preference for native accent (C. L. Chen, 2003; C. P. Chen, 2002; Chou, 2004; Chuang, 2002; Liao, 2004; Wei, 2003; Yo, 2003). The issue of accent and communication intelligibility, which is the heart of this research, is explored in 3 questions in teachers’ questionnaire and 2 question in students’ questionnaire appearing at the end of both questionnaires. As seen earlier, the sample population gives importance to accuracy, content and meaning, and accent and pronunciation. We also saw that teachers think that their students focus more on accuracy (A) than accent and pronunciation (B) and when it comes to content (C) and accuracy, students focus on content more. So if A is more important than B, and C is more important than A, is then C more important than B? Following formal logic, yes it is. But is it really the case? Is accent and pronunciation more important than meaning and content for students? Question 17 divides students into three segments. Surprisingly, C is not after all more important than B. It appears that C and B have equal percentages. This seems to suggest that, for students, accent and pronunciation are not less important than content and meaning. Accuracy seems to be students’ least concern when it is contrasted with content and meaning plus accent and pronunciation.
The distribution of accuracy, content and meaning, and accent and pronunciation
It is unclear, on one hand, as to why teachers think that students give more importance to accuracy as opposed to sounding native. This mismatch between students’ responses and teachers’ may hint at other factors. It could be evidence for teachers not knowing their students well enough. Or maybe it is a matter of perspective. On the other hand, teachers’ responses to questions 9 seem to highlight the difficulty teachers encounter when it comes to accent. Only 4% claim they never experience misunderstandings with their students caused by accent, and only 9% claim they ‘rarely’ do. This indicates that it is a rarity for accent not to get in the way of communication. Accent not only can get in the way of communication but it actually does. The majority of responses aggregate in the frequencies of ‘always’, ‘usually’, ‘often’ and ‘sometimes’.
Now, seeing that students hold speaking in high regard, and that accent and pronunciation are important to students, as important as content and meaning, it probably is the case that students harm meaning by their manufactured accent which is a faded attempt to simulate natives. If accent can distort meanings to cause misunderstandings it means that accent is wrongly practiced. It may lack the phonemic features that help escort meaning. One thing to be mentioned here is that this phenomenon does not hold for all students. It should represent only the 30% of students that think accent and pronunciation should be the goal. That 30% is still uncertain given that misunderstandings do always occur and they are not always attributed to accent. Some misunderstandings may even be caused by students’ accentless speech. Another aspect of speech that harms communication is pronunciation. If words are not pronounced the way they should, that may worsen the accent. However, pronunciation seems less of an issue compared with accent. Teachers experience misunderstandings caused by pronunciation less frequently.
This confirms the crucial role of accent over pronunciation in conveying meaning. Now, is it possible that B is more important than C? The last question in the teacher questionnaire settles this matter. The question is as follow: do you think students prioritize sounding native over content and meaning? 61% say yes and 39% say no. The percentages seem to support the claim that accented speech interferes with communication intelligibility as seen earlier in the literature review. Moreover, the last question in students’ questionnaire asks students to rate the importance of sounding native-like. No student rates its importance as ‘not at all important’. Only 12% and 14% think it is ‘quite unimportant’ and ‘less important’ respectively. It appears that only the minority deem sounding native-like as unimportant whereas the majority consider it as important (27%), quite important (20%), and very important (27%).
Discussion of the Findings
The observed impact of attitudes on the speaking proficiency in the data is in the expected direction. The rates that have been observed seem to be consistent with previous studies. However, it has been noticed that there is an attraction towards positive attitudes but those with positive attitudes are neither consistent with good nor low level of English. 28% (17 out of 60) of students with positive attitudes that have a low level  in English (Levels 1, 2, and 3) and 36% (22 out of 60) have high level in English. In contrast, 13% (8 out of 60) of students with negative or indifferent attitudes do actually have good level in English and 22% (13 out of 60) of the same category have low level of English. This indicates that there is not a strong impact of attitudes on students level though a slight correlation might be noticed in the percentages.
Moreover, we have seen that prioritizing content is vital to communication, and, surprisingly, students with either negative or indifferent attitudes, that claim that content should be prioritized, are greater in number than those who claim accuracy or accent and pronunciation should be prioritized (17% (A) for content whereas accuracy 7% and accent and pronunciation 7%). This seems to support the view that positive attitudes are not all it takes to be a good speaker. Those with positive attitudes exhibit an interesting fact. They seem to prioritize accent and pronunciation over the message and accuracy (27% (B) in favor of accent and pronunciation, 17% in favor of accuracy, and 22% in favor of the message). Similarly, 58% of students with positive attitudes think that sounding native is important whereas those with negative or indifferent attitudes (17%) think sounding native is not important. This is significant for it shows how attitudes influence students’ vision of what should be prioritized in language learning and speaking.
The majority of those who have either negative or indifferent attitudes towards English prefer focusing on content and meaning which is paradoxically vital to the speaking skill whereas the majority of those with positive attitudes prefer to focus on accent and pronunciation which is of minor importance in terms of oral proficiency and speech intelligibility and comprehensibility. Concerning teachers’ responses, it is noticed that there is a sort of correlation between students who prefer the speaking skill and those who prioritize sounding native over content and meaning. 79% of students who enjoy the speaking skill prioritize sounding native over content and meaning which may indicate that having (excessive) positive attitudes towards the speaking skill may turn out to be harmful to oral proficiency. In that sense, there is a sort of impact of attitudes on the speaking skill but not strong enough to reject the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis is still valid, but the alternative hypothesis is also valid for a population of 44% (A+B) of students’ population and 48% of teachers’ population and it does actually represent a significant portion of the population and speaks of an existing phenomenon. The observed impact is not all altogether directional however; it is both positive and negative since we have a two-tailed hypothesis.
Implications of the Study
Speaking is not having a native-like accent or pronunciation. Speaking is tone, rhythm, pitch, intonation, stress, fluency, pausing, articulation, rate, and loudness. These features carry the emotional state from the speaker’s mouth to the ears of the listener. They are what make communication human and alive. Teachers and students alike should recognize the importance of these prosodic features and teach them along other aspects of language equally. The rationale behind this call is that writing will always remain secondary to speaking for language is more used in its spoken form, which is natural, than its written from, which is artificial.
Therefore, a shift from the writing-centered instruction to the speaking-centered instruction should take place. Learners are into this shift already and they are in a desperate need for guidance. In addition to that, in teacher trainings, attention should be paid to the macro aspects of speech. Teachers should also be warned against the “charlatanism and quackery” of the “accent reduction industry” (Derwing and Munro 2009) in order to generate competent teachers that would generate proficient speakers for the long run. Moreover, attitudes can be taught. If teachers recognize their (attitudes) importance, and recognize that they (teachers) can lead students astray from social tuning and instill harmless attitudes towards the spoken language, then students would acquire speaking more naturally and even less painfully.
 National Archives and Records Administration
 Suprasegmental, also called Prosodic Feature, in phonetics, a speech feature such as stress, tone, or word juncture that accompanies or is added over consonants and vowels; these features are not limited to single sounds but often extend over syllables, words, or phrases. In Spanish the stress accent is often used to distinguish between otherwise identical words: término means “term,” termíno means “I terminate,” and terminó means “he terminated.” In Mandarin Chinese, tone is a distinctive suprasegmental: shih pronounced on a high, level note means “to lose”; on a slight rising note means “ten”; on a falling note means “city, market”; and on a falling–rising note means “history.” English “beer dripped” and “beard ripped” are distinguished by word juncture.
The above examples demonstrate functional suprasegmentals. Nonfunctional suprasegmentals that do not change the meaning of words or phrases also exist; stress in French is an example. Suprasegmentals are so called in contrast to consonants and vowels, which are treated as serially ordered segments of the spoken utterance. (http://www.britannica.com/)
 A: Accuracy
B: Accent and pronunciation
C: Content and meaning
 Always: 23%
 Always: 9%
 Levels 1, 2, and 3
 Levels 4, 5, and 6
 Important 12 students (20%)
Quite important 9 students (15%)
Very important 14 students (23%)
 Less important 6 students (10%)
Quite unimportant 4 students (7%)
Not at all important 0 students (0%)
 14 teachers think students prefer sounding native over content and meaning among whom we have 11 enjoy the speaking skill more than the other 4 skills. So 11 out of 14 is 79%
 11 teachers think their students prefer speaking and sounding native over content. So 11 out of 23 which is N equals 48%
Lending Land To Enhance Life
Tuesday, 04 August 2015 Somaliland sun
HOUSE OF LIFE is an innovative agricultural initiative whose implications are broad and resonate acutely with current world events; set in the specific context of Moroccan human development needs and cultural history, the model thus created could be replicated throughout North Africa, the Middle East and beyond.
The term HOUSE OF LIFE denotes a traditional name for a Jewish cemetery. It was therefore particularly appropriate for the Governor of the Al Haouz Province, Younès Al Bathaoui, to employ the phrase in respect of the project, led by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in the Kingdom of Morocco and endorsed by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in three provinces.
The uniqueness of the scheme lies in its intercultural aspect. HOUSE OF LIFE facilitates the free loan of land adjoining Jewish burial sites, in order to establish organic tree and medicinal nurseries for the benefit of neighboring Muslim farming communities.
Aided by the creation of HA3 (the High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal social enterprise), a complete process from farm to table is envisaged, thus addressing existing gaps in the organic agricultural entrepreneurial system. Organic certification, fair trade prices and wider markets – national and international - are secured for local farmers, whose communities go on to benefit from reinvestment in further projects.
The initiative forms part of HAF's One Billion Tree Campaign, itself one of several different human development schemes implemented by the foundation. All HAF projects aim towards environmental consciousness, socio-economic self-sufficiency and sustainability. They include organic agriculture, clean water and energy as well as programs addressing the particular vulnerability of women and youth and enhancing cultural diversity.
Evolution of an idea
The HOUSE OF LIFE pilot project was established at Akrich, Al Haouz province, a rural area outside Marrakesh, in 2012. The locally-managed nursery was established by HAF on land lent by the Jewish community of Marrakesh-Essaouira, adjacent to the tomb of Rabbi Raphael HaCohen, one of over 600 Jewish burial sites dotted across the country, in rural as well as urban areas.
In February 2015, at a ceremony presided over by the Governor of Al Haouz, Mr. Younès Al Bathaoui, 30,000 seeds and saplings were planted and a further 30,000 two-year-old trees – olive, fig, pomegranate and lemon – were set aside for distribution to local farmers.
At the same time, the proposed extension of this scheme across the entire Kingdom was announced, five further contracts having been put in place. Thereafter, in June, discussions were finalized resulting in the endorsement by the CGI of the project in Azilal, Essaouira and Ouarzazate provinces in the context of a proposal to plant a million organic fruit seeds at Jewish sacred sites.
"This initiative will give more life to these regions and will reinforce the hopes and perspectives of their inhabitants," noted Governor Al Bathaoui.
The Moroccan context
Rural Moroccans comprise 43 per cent of the country's 32 million population, with 75 per cent of rural households earning less than the national average (IFAD, 2013). Currently, farmers rely primarily on revenue from barley and corn; while these staples are planted on more than 70 per cent of agricultural land, they account for only 10 to 15 per cent of agricultural revenue, according to Morocco's Agency for Agricultural Development. Farmers therefore are making the transition to planting cash crops, typically fruit trees and plants, to generate greater income.
One billion trees and medicinal plants are needed as part of the process of overcoming subsistence agriculture, which is at the root of rural poverty. Their establishment would also help offset severe environmental challenges facing the Kingdom, particularly soil erosion, desertification and deforestation.
Modern Morocco is comprised of several cultures including its Jewish community, present in the region for two thousand years and possessing an important architectural legacy. The Kingdom is committed to the celebration of this rich mosaic; cultural preservation initiatives (that could be viewed as something of a luxury in a developing country) are viewed as taking place ideally in the context of vital human development projects.
The High Atlas Foundation: for sustainable prosperity
A Moroccan-US non-governmental organization, HAF, based in Marrakesh, Morocco, was founded in 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers, including HAF President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir. The foundation uses a democratic, participatory approach to enable marginalized, mostly rural, Moroccan communities to determine what they most need and to facilitate project success.
The broad goals are twofold: to cease subsistence agricultural practices that trap communities in a vicious cycle of rural poverty and to develop the local and national economy through a variety of green growth business initiatives, overseen initially by the foundation.
Rural cooperatives are created as a necessary mechanism for business activity; HAF - through HA3, its subsidiary corporate service - ensures a fair market price, enabling farmers to receive greater income. A significant added value is achieved when the produce is marketed as organic, fair-trade and environmentally and socially responsible.
Profits are reinvested in further projects prioritized by the communities themselves, in education, health, water infrastructure and small business development particularly for women and young people.
All of this is conducted in the context of a zero waste strategy. HAF anticipates using the walnut and almond shells and hulls to produce low emission fuel briquettes. Ultimately, the aim is to export Moroccan fair-trade, organic produce to the US and EU markets.
Recently, HAF's work has expanded beyond Morocco and its ethos and methodology hold the potential to benefit communities worldwide.
In Moroccan terms, HAF's sustainable development vision, as shared with CGI, mirrors the Kingdom's vision for itself, with the HOUSE OF LIFE project, linking Morocco's Muslim farming families and Jewish communities, ably embodying a multiplicity of goals.
Kati Roumani, based in Marrakesh, works in the field of intercultural understanding and Jewish history and assists the High Atlas Foundation in its communications.
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