Despite sustained economic growth in the past decades, Morocco is still burdened by unemployment, widespread poverty (nearly 19% of Morocco’s population lives on less than $4 a day), high rates of child labor, gender inequality gaps in education, high school drop out rates, and illiteracy (25% of the adult population). Stark inequalities between urban and rural areas persist: 75% of people living in poverty reside in the latter. In addition, major challenges in the education system contribute to high drop out rates. The World Economic Forum ranks Morocco 120th out of 137 countries for quality of public education. Amongst the greatest concerns are the outdated teaching methods and resources, lack of sufficient and adequate infrastructure and of libraries, teaching materials, internet connections, and lack of teachers and of quality training, teacher absenteeism, overcrowded classrooms, and violent disciplinary methods used in schools.

The Non-Formal Education Program (NFEP) was conceived by the government as part of an integrated vision of literacy, development and poverty reduction. The NFEP objective is to tackle elevated school dropout rates amongst children and youth and to reduce illiteracy.

In 2010, the Pistorio Foundation and the Azrou Center for Community Development launched the NFEP in Azrou. For the past ten years, we have enabled about 40 underprivileged out of school children, every year, from the Province of Ifrane, to attend the Program, reaching hundreds of students to date. The three year accelerated program allows students to catch up on the public school curriculum, pass national exams and be reinserted in the school system. The program targets children between 9 and 17 years of age, selected through criteria including family income and socio economic background. All students also attend Vocational Training classes in wood carpeting, embroidery, tailoring, and electrician initiation. This allows them to acquire skills that can help guide them towards a choice of future employment. Thanks to these workshops, older students who cannot enrol in secondary school, can be admitted directly to state Professional Schools and thereafter join the workforce. Our goal is to make sure that our students either enter public school or Professional School, and prevent that they go back to the streets where they are at risk of exploitation and abuse. The ultimate objective is for them to attain an education and a degree that will allow them to secure a job to become self-sufficient and break free from poverty.

In 2013 the Foundation built a classroom building at the premises of the Azrou center, for our beneficiaries enrolled in the ENF program, which includes classrooms, workshop rooms, sanitation facilities, kitchen and canteen. In 2020, the Foundation inaugurated the Madame Lacombe Computer Room and distributed tablets for students for distance learning.

Our students thrive at the center, also thanks to the tailored, individualised attention and care given by educators and school staff, as well as the wide palette of activities offered to motivate and broaden these children’s horizons. At the school children receive a nutritious meal overseen by an expert nutritionist. Children can access the Azrou Medical Center for medical check ups and basic health care. We run extra-curricular activities that span from cultural, educational and recreational field trips, to theatre productions, IT classes, sports and competitions, gardening, art and cooking workshops. These activities play a role in the high retention rates of the program and further serve to rebuild their confidence and self esteem, in order to return to formal education with the required academic preparation and soft skills to succeed, and to never have to be on the streets again.
Based on the excellent results and positive impact on the lives of hundreds of direct and indirect beneficiaries, our project has been commended year after year by the Ministry of Education, which has recognised it as one of the most successful Non Formal Education program roll-out in the country.