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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Girls’ E-Learning: Exams, Education, and Empowerment

This year, the theme of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is education. In their theme announcement, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership highlighted that “Education is a public good and fundamental human right recognized in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld in various international and regional human rights conventions and treaties. Nonetheless, the right to education is subject to political, economic, and social shifts and upheavals, leaving certain groups (especially women, girls, people with disabilities, LGBTQI people, migrants, and indigenous people) particularly vulnerable and liable to being denied this crucial right.”

High school dropout rates in Morocco are alarmingly high. In rural southwest Morocco, girls and women face a variety of cultural, economic, and political barriers to education. On Day 14 of the 16 Days of Activism, Dar Si Hmad reflects on those obstacles and how our E-Learning program is helping Berber girls overcome them.

Dar Si Hmad’s fog harvesting project pipes potable water collected from fog to five Berber villages in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. The remote, impoverished region of Aït Baamrane has limited access to information and educational infrastructure. Girls from these villages travel to the small nearby town of Mesti in order to pursue secondary education. These young women are often the first people in their families to learn how to read and write, let alone attend higher education. Morocco’s multilingual nature creates yet another barrier, as exams and official business are conducted in Arabic or French but children in rural communities grow up speaking Tachelhit, the indigenous language of the Amazigh (Berber) people. Traditional gender norms do not emphasize the importance of education, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, for women. These challenges reduce the success rate for Berber girls taking their national high school exams.

Girls in southwest Morocco receive expert tutoring via ICT
through Dar Si Hmad's Girls' E-Learning Program.
The remote location of their school makes educational
opportunities hard to come by and increases exam difficulty.
Dar Si Hmad’s E-Learning Program combats these barriers by connecting girls in rural boarding schools with certified instructors whose support helps them properly follow the curriculum and prepare for exams. In collaboration with the Provincial Delegation of the Ministry of Education in Sidi Ifni, Dar Si Hmad is using information and communication technology (ICT) platforms to provide rural girls with mentorship, training, and exam practice. Subjects covered include mathematics, philosophy, Arabic, French, and English.

Exams in Morocco are mandatory for high school seniors and juniors. They are cumulative, summing up all of the lessons over the entire year, and take a great deal of preparation. In urban cities in Morocco, students generally take extra classes to study for major tests. This is not a financial or logistical option for girls in remote villages. Electronic access to mock exams helps to shrink the gap between rural and urban resources. Tutors who can provide support and coach girls on techniques for coping with exam stress and fright are a valuable and otherwise unavailable resource.

Girls have to pass these exams in order to go on to university. Without adequate support, the male-female and rural-urban educational divides in Morocco will never be overcome. Increasing access to education for girls is a powerful way to improve lives, advance gender equality, and strengthen communities. Girls’ lives are changed as they successfully finish high school with a wide range of skills, empowered to seek further opportunities. These girls are in turn changing their own villages and Moroccan culture, leveraging female education for community growth.

Dar Si Hmad is now expanding the project to reach more students in more villages. Supporting the Girls’ E-Learning Program gives a first generation Berber girl the chance to expand her horizons. For more information or to partner with Dar Si Hmad in this work, please see the Girls E-Learning homepage.



This post is part of Dar Si Hmad’s 2015 #16Days Campaign to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.