According to UNICEF, secondary school attendance rate in Morocco is as low as 39% for males and 36% for females. In poor rural communities especially, school dropout rates are very high due to a number of socioeconomic reasons, including lack of adequate teacher training. The Pistorio Foundation has partnered with the “Centre d’Azrou pour le Développement Communautaire” (ACCD) of the Al Akhawayn University, to improve the living conditions of children of disadvantaged communities of the region of Azrou by providing educational opportunities to school drop-outs from the poorest families.
The project was launched in July 2010 and will support, in conformity with the government curriculum for Non-Formal Education, the education of 40 underprivileged children who have dropped out of school. These children come from very poor families in critical situations, and often from broken or single parent families. Most of them have been out of school for 3 or more years. Dire living conditions often push children to live on the streets and in many instances to engage in criminal behaviour. Most of these children work on the streets begging or selling plastic at the souk for derisory sums to help support their families.
The students will temporarily follow classes at the existing ACCD facilities, until the construction of a new building, in partnership with ACCD and local authorities, will have been completed. The classes allow students to cover 2 years of a given subjec t in 1 year. The courses offered are Arab, French, Maths, Natural Sciences.
The Program consists of a two year cycle. The projects admits students from the age of 8 to 16. Older students receive professional training classes in Wood Carving, Hairstyling, Weaving and Tailoring. The children also take classes in IT, Physical Education and Art, and take part in extra-curricular activities, such as sports and cultural competitions, as well as class excursions. The Foundation will provide for school supplies and for one meal per day. in the school. Scholarship fees also cover regular medical check-ups and primary health care and specialist doctors consultations.
We had embarked in the project with the initial objective of reinserting them within the public school system after two years of the Program. We soon realized however that the primary reason for school drop-out was the violence and abuse from teaches in public schools, more so than the lack of motivation from students, and the exclusion of disadvantaged children who did not perform well in school because they come from illiterate families, because of their absences from school to help support the family, and they have been expelled from the school.
At the Center, children are so motivated they have asked to extend the program to the summer months which has been done. The children refuse to return to the public school system. We have therefore decided to extend the program to more years until the students can enrol in external Professional Schools. In 2012 we were very proud that 7 students from our program between the ages of 15 to 17 were admitted to the Centre de Qualification Professionel Statal (State Professional School Centre).