A Star Lives Here, the program that keeps Berber girls from dropping out of school in Morocco

“Here lives a star” is the inscription that can be read in almost fifty barbarian gates in four villages of Erfoud, an Arab town in southern Morocco. They live in each of these houses students at school with the help of the sponsorship program of the NGO Friends of the Moroccan People Itran, based in Barcelona.

Each girl has a godfather or godmother who donates 10 euros a month to cover the cost of sending them to school and their school clothes.r. The delivery is made by hand to each beneficiary accompanied by their father or mother to “prevent local politicians from withholding the money,” says Mohamed Alami Soussi, president of Itran.

The main objective is “preventing school absences and create a better future for themselves and their generations. Likewise, it aims to promote the role of education as a tool to ensure better progress”, assures Itran.

[Por qué invertir en la educación de las niñas: “Si un 10% más fuese a clase, el PIB aumentaría un 3%”]

Being a family in need is a requirement, but school results, that they must be good “because we ask them about their academic records and if they fail, they are given an opportunity, they study because their performance has fallen; and if they are not removed from the program and the aid is intended for another girl”, explains Mercedes Kreus, responsible for this initiative.

Always with the commitment of these families to feed their daughters properly, take care of hygiene, both for the girl and the house, and maintain a family environment where the girl can develop both emotionally and academically. In addition, of course, to ensure daily school attendance and monitoring their educational progress.

This also avoids not taking their daughters out of school when, for example, they are menstruating, as is common in rural areas, for fear of unwanted pregnancy or to make them work.

“We couldn’t convince the parents of a talented girl to continue her studies,” laments Alami. Several people from the association went to visit the family, but the only solution they were given was to find her a husband and let him decide. “For the parents, their daughter was old enough to get married, and at 17, there was no time,” explains the president of Itran.

A group of participants in the school program.



In addition to the lack of transport in areas far from the learning centers, there is also no proper hygiene framework due to the lack of water or the fact that they only have one communal bathroom.

Thus, stop their girls from school when they finish primary school, limiting their personal and professional development. “There is inequality between boys and girls in terms of education, especially in rural areas,” confirms Mehdi Azdem of the Racines association in Casablanca.

“Broken bathrooms, mixed bathrooms or bathrooms that do not meet hygiene standards are reasons why girls do not enroll in school. Parents refuse their daughters to enter a bathroom with children”, explains Azdem to EL ESPAÑOL.

In fact, this organization started the project Speak Art on national education, which addresses girls’ early school leaving. “That explains how there is infrastructural problem in the centers. Moroccan society is focused on solving the problems of dropping out of school and attempts are being made to correct it so that there is equality in schools between girls and boys,” Azdem says.

It’s a mindset change job with awareness and communication campaigns.

84 sponsored girls

Itran’s program is modest, but with the cooperation of the local NGO Essom, it already reaches 84 girls, most of them in secondary education, from Erfoud, Midelt and Amellagou (Meknes region). Is for rural areas where the illiteracy rate is high, especially in women.

Among the beneficiaries are some students, because the sponsorship started 15 years ago in Erfud with girls who are now in college. The term of the contract is until the girl comes of age or until the godfather wishes to terminate them. They also help Mohammed, a boy with Down syndrome, and other girls with disabilities, including a minor single mother.

There, in the most remote part of the country, almost in the desert, on the border with Algeria, the volunteers from Itran arrive. EL ESPAÑOL accompanied the NGO on a trip to Erfoud, where school principals collaborate with the program to ensure that students continue their studies. is done a constant monitoring of school education girls to achieve the goals.

The women hide their fashionable clothes under black cloaks that they wrap around their bodies. They even hide their faces if a man walks by. The first impression is that it does not look like touristic Morocco, but the big cities with bazaars and entertainment, it is far from the surf beaches with luxury hotels.

fighting illiteracy

More than 35% of illiterates in Morocco are found among women, compared to 16% among men, according to the latest figures published by UNESCO in 2018.

For its part, the National Agency for Combating Illiteracy in the neighboring country assures that the percentage has decreased in recent years, but the current figure is not available. In 2014, it was around 32%, equivalent to 8,600,000 people.

Agency officials say the rate has improved since 2014 if one takes into account the number of people (more than one million a year) who have attended literacy programs run in partnership with civil society organizations and the Ministry of islam affairs

The fight against illiteracy in Morocco is limited to teaching basic skills: reading, writing and arithmetic, in addition to skills that facilitate integration into everyday life. There are three tiers for this, the third lasts two years and targets artisans, sailors and farmers.

In any case, the Moroccan agency aims to reduce the overall level of illiteracy to 10% by 2026. Something that is not known if it can be achieved, since covid has affected by suspending programs and not teaching classes online.

for now, women are the main beneficiaries of literacy programs, although in rural areas it is much lower. In the 2019-2020 reading season, before the pandemic, 87% of registrations were female, while in the field they were 57%.

illiteracy figures

Nabila Munib, General Secretary of the United Socialist Party (PSU), denounced in an interview with EL ESPAÑOL during its 2021 election campaign that “47% of illiterates are found among women, while among men it is 27%. Women are victims of a lot of violence“.

For this reason, in their political party, considered at its beginning in 2016 as the Moroccan Podemos, they defend that “it is necessary equality awareness campaign and respect for women because we are in a patriarchal society”.

On the Itran sponsorship waiting list, other girls are waiting their turn to receive help. They will be the next to secure their training for at least a year. The purpose of the NGO is reach one hundred sponsored girls.

After the summer, with the start of the new course, the student kit with various study materials will be delivered. The assistance also includes clothes and shoes for the family twice a year, many basic food items and every year, when possible, a bicycle, mobile phone or computer.

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