Creating Solutions For Morocco’s Rural Girls

Over the past fifteen years, Morocco has made great strides in improving education. Near gender parity has been achieved for primary education, and a 2011 UNESCO report shows total school enrollment at 95%. In fact, since 1999, all statistics are pointing up, including literacy rates. But, things aren’t perfect. Dropout rates persist at a startling 38% for both elementary and secondary levels and—of the students who make it to high school—only 15% graduate. Though Morocco has invested a great deal of money in its education system, the bulk of the benefits are seen in urban areas. As is the trend with education in many developing countries, rural girls are seeing the slowest rate of improvement.

Life in the Berber villages of Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains is very different from the city streets of Marrakech. Here, people live without many of the amenities and modern luxuries we take for granted. The greatest things missing, however, are schools. Children who wish to study are forced to take long, arduous journeys to cities with universities. Girls are often disenfranchised from continuing education, as the journey is perceived as too far, or too dangerous.

PaperSeed Grantee, Education for All, seeks to change life for the Atlas Mountain’s Berber girls.

Founded in 2007, Education for All is a Morocco-based NGO that builds and maintains boarding homes for rural girls. EFA’s boarding homes are unique, safe spaces for these girls—aged 12 to 18—to live and study close to their secondary schools. The boarding houses are built to be optimal places for girls pursuing higher education, with modern amenities like electricity and internet access. The girls live with a house mother who sees to their day-to-day wellbeing, so parents feel assured about letting their children live away from home. But, the girls don’t just live and study at the houses. EFA sees to their enrichment as well, with extracurricular outings meant to round out their education and broaden their horizons.

This year, EFA’s girls had an exam pass rate of 97%. Many are the first in their communities to attend secondary school. Eighteen of EFA’s girls have now matriculated to University of Marrakech, with many others soon to follow. EFA projects that by the end of 2016, they will serve 180 rural girls. This is a huge impact, when one considers the far-reaching possibilities. Without EFA, these girls would most likely have dropped out of school. But, because they are educated and pursuing careers, these 180 girls will have means, and reinvest in their communities. Because they are educated, these 180 girls will be more likely to delay marriage and have fewer children. If the girls choose to have children, they are far more likely to send them to school and value education- an impact which has potential to endure for generations. Finally, these 180 girls—many of whom are the first to go to college, let alone secondary school—will continue to be role models and inspire other girls in their communities to pursue higher education. This will contribute not only to the Sustainable Development Goal of quality education, but to overall gender equality.

PaperSeed got involved with EFA in 2014. The organization helped to complete EFA’s fifth boarding house by providing high quality furnishings and equipment. Funds for projects like these come from a variety of sources: CellMark transactional donations, concentrated fundraising efforts, and generous donations from our network of individual supports. Now, thanks to people like you who support PaperSeed, 45 more girls can live and study in comfort with solar heating, modern appliances, and cozy beds.

Without EFA’s programs, these rural girls would miss the opportunity to complete school. Many of them would be pressured to marry, have children, and take on domestic work. Due to enduring cultural beliefs, they would be discouraged from seeking paid work outside of the home, thus perpetuating the culture of inequality and continuing the cycle of poverty. Because of EFA, girls from the Atlas Mountain region have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, participate more equally in their societies, and become empowered global citizens.