Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reflections on Our Pilot Water School

The stormy wind is blowing strong dust, forming a small whirlwind in the middle of the barren, reddish school yard. There are two prefabricated classrooms, both with a rundown feel and a sadness to them when the children who give them life are absent.  Opposite the classrooms are two toilets with no running water.  There is a fence enclosing these buildings and a metal blue door, chipped here and there, revealing a low-grade of rusting iron which makes a high squeaky noise when it is opened.

This is the locale for our summer camp, or water school, that provides remedial classes for some 50 children attending the rural schools of the villages of the Ait Baamrane, a region we service with fog-water.  The school is managed by the Delegation of the Ministry of Education in Sidi Ifni, a partner of ours in this quest.  For these past couple of weeks, the Dar Si Hmad team has been working for some five hours a day with the children, conducting a fully-rounded program on all issues relating and related to water as well as fun and interactive learning games.  We came with the intention of teaching the children and we have found ourselves, all of the Dar Si Hmad team, being their students.  We may have the technical know-how, the toys, the books, the computers, but the children have turned us into better and more attentive teachers.  They are inspirational.

Let me count the ways, ten reasons why we, as the staff, are moved by the Water School:

10. The children are far from being hidebound, they are eager to change even when such change doesn't exactly bring them immediate reward or even if it strips them of what they have grown to know as their privileges (especially boys regarding girls);

9. The children are willing to eat all the different food we have been bringing for their lunch-boxes.  Perhaps to the exception of one child,  they have been eager to try new food, new textures and to discover a different world of smells and tastes;

8. At the onset the children had difficulty playing in organized, rule-bound games.  They felt they had to wait too long or that their turn never came, but now they have fun and follow what their peers are doing even when it is not them who do it.  They have illustrated for us an amazing sense of organic complicity and understanding amongst themselves we did not anticipate in the beginning;

7.  The children walk an average of five kilometers each day to get to school.  They always come early and wait; they are patient and excited to have this opportunity that not even their elder siblings had.  They have fashioned an enduring relationship with the institution they are proud of;

6. One of the children, the youngest in the group at six-years old, has a motricity problem in his right hand and right leg.  He wanted to participate in the program as did his parents, but the teacher and all the other kids treat him as though he cannot accomplish anything.  We established rules of cleaning after oneself and though he remonstrated in the beginning (being used to having everything served), he participated and we all discovered an extremely smart and funny child.  Everyone sees his new identity now and he has taught everyone that one has the ability to adapt to new circumstances;

5. The children have grown in small villages where family and neighbors’ support are essential to survival.  We have witnessed how they help and lend a hand to each other, and was neat to see them turning competitive games into real moments of joined fun;

4.  All children are eager to learn with sparkles in their eyes.  The girls have new role models such as the women engineers, teachers and doctors that come through the region. The girls are now convinced that there are valorizing paths for women in education;

3.  Curious, the children are so curious and ask and ask and never tire of asking when we give answers.  As though a peel of onion, once you peel one layer, there is another and another… until there is none left. This curiosity, the sparkles in the eyes, come from children who participated very little as subjects (at home or at school).  In the traditional understanding of childhood in the region, a child only listens and doesn’t speak their voice. This is not the case here;

2.  The children have won us over with their trust and willingness to be kind and accommodating to some hurdles.  They are inhabited neither by malice nor by bad intentions, they are not  conniving or calculating.  There is simply pure positiveness;

1. The sense of happiness coming out of their eyes and laughters is overwhelming, genuine and true.  How lucky we are to have had this beautiful lesson and learn from this source of happiness!

This is the Water School. We will run this school yet again and will scale it, covering more issues, more science and be sure to learn from our touching experience with the children.

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