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Empowering the Education System in Bir Gandus

Cheikh Akmach

HAF Site Coordinator

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) recently organized a second community forum in the Bir Gandus municipality. The first forum provided an opportunity for local civil society organizations to meet and discuss the needs of the commune and suggest projects that could help in resolving them. It was a success with more than 30 women attending and who are in pursuit of their individual and shared goals.

The second community forum covered the topic of education. With teachers, parents, government officials attending and engaging in civil dialogue about the problems the municipality faces in terms of education, the event also included our collaborators from the Middle Eastern Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and HAF’s Acting COO, Moulay Hassan Aladlouni.

HAF Program Manager Hana Ezaoui animated the event. She gave a brief speech about the main topic before she gave the torch to our program director, Hajiba Boumasmar, who re-introduced our project to the audience, explaining the different milestones we have gone through.

Hajiba’s speech in the second community forum. Credits: Cheikh Akmach/HAF

Hajiba talked about our previous workshops in the Dakhla region that came as part of MEPI’s participatory planning and the implementation of community initiatives. She mentioned how our Imagine empowerment workshops that are dedicated to women’s personal and shared growth experiences assisted more than 90 women in the region.

She also uncovered how our subsequent training on vital skills - such as civic engagement, social entrepreneurship, digital marketing and more impacted more than 90 men and women in the same region.

Hajiba openly expressed the challenges we faced and our next targets. Next, Hana Ezaoui introduced HAF’s Moulay Hassan, who spoke about education in Morocco. He emphasized that governments from all around the globe are trying to find new ways to innovate their educational systems.

MEPI’s team presence during the second community forum. Credits: Abdellah Laaboudi

Hana then introduced our key guests from the local education ministry delegation. Each of them delivered a speech about the topic. Among them, Ali, a prominent official in the Education Ministry Delegation at Dakhla who traveled for more than 250 km to attend our event. Ali spoke about education in terms of a shared process between parents, students, teachers, and schools.

Next, Miftah, a local teacher, spoke about the history of education in the region and in Morocco, how many projects and initiatives were launched only to be met with failure, and the collective responsibility of teachers, schools, and families in education.

Finally, Hana and the team divided the participants into groups. They were asked to identify the main problems the municipality faces in terms of education and the solutions they propose. The participants were already used to the participatory approach we use to conduct our workshops and events. The MEPI team walked around the room listening to the attendees and sharing insights with them.

MEPI team delegation discussing with the participants. Credits: Abdellah Laaboudi/HAF

Finally, each group chose a representative to present their findings. This open-discussion allowed for everyone to see a trend of commonly mentioned problems such as lack of teachers, the irresponsible behavior of parents, and many more.

Hana invited women from different ages who have benefitted from our previous workshops. The three women shared their experiences and how much of an impact the training had upon them.

Part of the testimonials given during the forum. Credits: Abdellah Laaboudi

The most touching testimonial was from a woman who told us this story. She used to sell items she imported from Mauritania to Bir Gandus but when the deadly covid crisis hit, she faced lots of difficulties that made her ultimately give up this endeavor.

However, she took a chance and decided to attend our Imagine Workshop, HAF’s training that is dedicated to empower women in all areas of their lives. After participating in the workshop, feeling rejuvenated, she decided to rise up to the challenge once again.

Free from her previous limiting beliefs, she restarted her business. She told us that now – three months later – her business is running smoothly and she is thinking of incorporating elements from our other training to expand her business.

These testimonials mean the world to us. Working in the NGO field is not only about organizing capacity-building events, but impacting the world and enhancing lives.

Finally, MEPI’s deputy director Alexander gave a speech about MEPI’s partnership with HAF. He expressed his gratitude to HAF for the support it has shown to the local community throughout the duration of this project. He gave his thanks to the local authorities and Ministry of Education for their dedication. He expressed his excitement for the team’s visit to Bir Gandus as well as for the incredible progress the program has made. He mentioned that the US Embassy was proud for the emergence of these different community-led initiatives and the good energy that this program has brought for the region.

Alexander giving a speech with Zakaria acting as his translator. Credits: Abdellah Laaboudi/HAF

Everyone concluded that with this final word, However, there was a big surprise awaiting us all. The artist Salek stood up and uncovered a masterpiece that he gifted to the MEPI delegation members.

The most heart-warming scene of the event. Credits: Abdellah Laaboudi/HAF

At the sight of such a heart-warming scene, a sweet-sounding shout from a participant said in English: “Welcome to Lamhiriz!” (Lamhiriz is the second name for Bir Gandus). The event’s finale left a lasting impression on participants as they went home carrying with them actionable plans and ideas and hopes to improve the educational system in the municipality.

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