"If you educate a girl you educate the next generation as well".
This project is working with a charity that builds and runs girls' boarding houses near secondary colleges and lycées in the High Atlas Mountains, providing the opportunity for selected girls from villages across the region to continue their education.
Through the project's provision of boarding houses, girls gain access to a secondary education and the chance to fulfil their potential in an environment that promotes academic study and social understanding. The goal is to make a difference to the lives of these girls now, and thus change many more in the future.
In March 2020 the schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the girls had to leave their boarding houses and go home to their remote villages. Good online teaching was available but many girls had no laptop or Internet access so were missing out on vital education, even though the older girls were still expected to return to school to sit their exams. After a very successful appeal, the charity provided tablets for all girls in exam classes to enable them to continue their studies. Throughout the lockdown volunteers provided support to the house-mothers through online English conversation sessions. This proved so successful that the e-volunteer programme was extended to continue after the pandemic, and widened to include online lessons with the girls. Linking up online once a week, e-volunteers work with small groups of girls to improve their conversational English, develop their creative writing skills and discuss issues relevant to teenage girls. Our partners in Morocco say:
'This crisis hasn't stopped our volunteers who always provide us with support from a distance! Since the beginning of the lockdown we have been hosting English conversation sessions remotely to help our house managers improve their English level. It's a real sucess and we plan to extend these sessions so our girls can enjoy them too!'
This innovative project is also working towards Goal 3 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG), specifically: to promote gender equality and empower women. The MDG Goal 3 target is to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.
As is often the case, the need for accommodation is greater than can be realistically provided. There are three criteria for each intake:
Poverty - the family is too poor to consider other options;
Distance - the family lives too far from the college for their daughter to travel every day;
Academic potential - each girl is assessed for her potential to succeed at college if she were to be given a place in the house.
The boarding houses are more than just a place to stay! The girls are offered activities and experiences to support and enrich their education, beyond what they learn at school, such as:
Regular, well-run, daily programmes that provides much-needed structure for the girls to succeed in their studies;
Individual support and attention to their academic progress from their housemother, who liaises closely with the college;
Educational talks and activities from regular visitors to the house, ranging from environmental awareness, to careers talks, to art sessions or sports; and occasional visits to places of interest, broadening the girls' very limited experience of travel within their own country.
The first boarding house opened in Asni in 2008. In September 2009 a second house was opened in Ouirgane, and in 2011 a third house opened in Talaat n'Yacoub (100km from Marrakech). Each of these houses caters for girls aged 11-14 and enables them to attend the college which is within walking distance of their house. By 2013 the houses were providing homes for more than 100 girls and it was clear that there was a demand for places not only to enable 11-14 year olds to attend college but also for 15-17 year olds to complete the next stage of their education at the lycée. In 2013 the first EFA girls received their baccalaureate and went on to university, and two more boarding houses were opened in Asni, providing places for 92 girls to study for their baccalaureate, with Asni 2 opening in 2013 and Asni 3 in 2015. In late 2019 a second house opened in Talaat n'Yacoub, coinciding with the opening of a lycee in that town.
The volunteer programme is based at the houses in Asni, though volunteers may also spend some time at Dar Ouirgane which is only a 20 minute taxi ride away. Latifa (the first house mother and now in overall charge of all the houses) welcomes volunteers to help her in providing pastoral and educational support to the girls. The goal is to enable the girls to reach their potential - whether they choose to return to their villages, to continue with further education, or enter employment.
"Without the boarding houses it would be impossible for these girls to attend secondary schools - they all come from remote villages high in the Atlas Mountains. They are all so keen to make the most of the opportunity they have been given. They work incredibly hard as they are determined to pass their exams, and they also enjoy living in the supportive and caring atmosphere which the boarding house provides. It was a privilege to work with them." Dianne
I would certainly recommend e volunteering as it is an extremely positive experience. It allows you to make new friends and gives you a better understanding of other cultures. It is also a privilege to be allowed to share really meaningful times with both the girls and the housemother. There is something curiously intimate about these online links which allow you to be in a room in Asni with the girls and which allows them to come into your home. There was a definite sense of being part of their family as they were part of ours. Maggie
To learn more about how the volunteer programme works with this project click here