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Monday 30 March 2015

Arrgh, it’s over already!

Quelle dommage! I’ve not been here long, certainly not long enough, and it’s already time to go and get a ‘real job’. We’ve all just got into our groove here, not that there is one actually, each week is different and one must be as flexible as an olympic gymnast; inventing activities on demand and being prepared to ditch whatever you’ve spent the morning concocting. The girls have got another round of internal assessment this week; so they must primarily focus on revision rather than activities with me. Still I’ve been more than happy washing up, and peeling and chopping carrots this morning, as poor Samira’s got tonsillitis.
The really good news is that I’ve rationed my Marmite stash perfectly. I was sweating at one point wondering how I would cope without my viscous black pot of goodness to balance out the intense sweetness of breakfast time. One of my molars has actually crumbled under the sugary strain. I’ve almost certainly got self-induced diabetes, and am much tubbier and more tagine-shaped than when I arrived which is testament to all the delicious and plentiful food I’ve had the pleasure of eating, and all the tea I’ve washed it down with.
From a subjective point of view I really feel that this organisation functions as the vision aspires to. In essence, most of the girls here are getting an education that they otherwise would not have, and they’re enjoying it too. Objectively, I can see new challenges becoming apparent, as the whole project matures and expands. Tthe constant burden of trying to match the money that was raised last year in order to keep the 5 houses running, keep the worker’s wages paid, and subsidise those girls who have made it to university, is an on-going pressure. In this corner of the country, EFA is now a very reputable and well-trusted organisation, so there will ensue rigorous competition for a place at one of the boarding house in future. Once one sibling has been through the system and tested the water, all the other girls in that family want to follow suit. The facilities and quality of life in these boarding houses is fantastic so who wouldn’t want to come here! The selection process for the girls will have to become stricter and the criteria tougher as popularity grows. There are still many, many, more potential students than there are places for in boarding houses nationally; and it’s essential that EFA’s boarding houses are for the girls who really would not be in education if it wasn’t for them.
I’ve just spent the weekend with a group of girls from Imlil. They don’t have loads of spare money but they do own lots of land and apple trees. Imlil is most definitely in the catchment area for Asni, so technically the girls should all be going to College there, thus freeing up space in Ouirgane for girls from those really hard to get to places deep in the mountains. However I’m told that the College in Asni is full and oversubscribed, so….what does this mean for those girls from Imlil; they deserve an education too. Equally there are girls staying here that live in Ouirgane and Maregha, both towns are only 3kms away from school- a 45minute hike uphill. They’re absolutely in the catchment for the college here but should they be staying in the boarding house if they live walking distance away. These are the kind of issues that are coming to light now.
Anyway, there are some brilliant helmsmen and women steering Education For All in the right direction. I’m talking about committee members, the volunteer coordinators, the fundraisers and of course all the folk doing the ground work in the houses here. Then there are the rudderless hippies like myself that come along, and HOPEFULLY have given at least as much as they’ve gain from this incredible experience. I recognise that a volunteer with a sound knowledge of French language is of great value to the girls here. This has always been my shortfall. Although English will be as useful to them in future, and there is talk of it replacing French as the second language, at this stage of their education, French is their priority. Still they’ve been super keen to learn some English with me and I’m astounded by their capacity and eagerness for language learning.

‘Working’ with the girls during the day, through games and activities: craft, environmental, theatrical and some more academically challenging ones, has been so enjoyable. Everything is new so everything presents a learning opportunity- for me as well as the girls. I recognise that the girls are having a good time when they’re laughing and smiling, and I would say that laughing and learning can most definitely be synchronous activities. Often I have felt this is not the belief shared by the responsibles here who have gone through the antiquated education system in Morocco themselves, and perhaps perceive learning to be an arduous task indeed. Still, the girls are well disciplined to crack on with their homework in the evenings, so during the day whilst they’re not in lessons, a bit of fun is good to re-energise the mind, body and soul I think. No harm done.

Honestly my best bit has been getting an exclusive glimpse in to the lives of these young Moroccan women. Having been welcomed so warmly it burns, in to their homes, in to their Berber communities, (without even being able to speak the same language), has been an absolute privilege of a lifetime. I’m desperate to stay in contact with my 38 new best friends and see how their lives pan-out. I’m bursting with gratitude for the hospitality I’ve received here, and I wish all the girls supported by EFA all the luck in the world. Thanks very much everyone.

Lucy Goodman