Experience Enhances Understanding; Understanding Leads to More Effective Action
Ifrane, October 5, 2012 – Founded by Al Akhawayn students with the aim of promoting education and learning in Morocco, Teach4Morocco celebrates the first anniversary of its creation during a seminar organized by Al Akhawayn Community Service Office at the University campus in Ifrane, on October 1st, 2012.
Teach4Morocco is an NGO created in October 2011 by a group of students and alumni from Al Akhawayn University and other higher education institutions, as well as education experts. The NGO’s mission is to contribute to the improvement of education in the country, especially in remote areas. Early projects mainly target children and schools in the High Atlas region.
“The education and learning experience we receive at Al Akhawayn University is unique in the sense that it helps us understand better the real world, the tough conditions some of us live through, and the possible solutions for these,” said Maha Laaziri (‘13), International Studies student at Al Akhawn School of Humanities and Social Sciences and founder of Teach4Morocco. “As individuals, it is our responsibility to help improve education and contribute to the advancement of our country. Morocco needs our effective participation through cutting-edge social and economic solutions.”
One of the most recent projects of Teach4Morocco took place in June and July of 2012 in Ichbaken, a small village in the Tassaout valley, south-east of Marrakesh. With money they had previously raised, dozens of volunteers and members of the organization reconstructed the village’s school facilities with the help of 60 local employees: they built a fence around the school, built new restrooms, made electricity and water available at the school, insulated the roofs, leveled the floors, repaired broken windows, installed new doors, heaters, blackboards, and curtains.
In a seminar entitled “How Can I Make a Difference?” organized by Al Akhawayn Community Service Office, Teach4Morocco and other NGOs presented their humanitarian work in Morocco. Laaziri shared stories and experiences with a large attendance of more than 200 Al Akhawayn students.
Other guest speakers included Bland Addison, visiting professor from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, US; Aicha Khidani, founding member of the Moroccan Supporting Committee for the Schooling of Rural Girls (Le Comité de Soutien à la Scolarisation des Filles Rurales; and Nicolas Hamelin, Assistant Professor of Marketing and Management at Al Akhawayn.
Addisson described the different approaches to community service and involvement, using as example his visiting team of students currently on Al Akhawayn campus and Al Akhawayn students involved in the Community Service Program. Khidani, presented the issue of girls dropping out of schools - particularly in rural regions in Morocco - through statistical facts. Hamelin discussed environmental responsibility and the role of each individual in reducing their carbon footprint in Morocco.
“When students hear first-hand accounts from individuals who are at the heart of the social development sector, they are inspired and they understand better the way they can be involved in their community,” said Alice Barnsdale, Community Service Coordinator at Al Akhawayn University. “Maha is 22 but she was able to create an NGO (Teach4Morocco) and build a strong, dedicated, and equally young team to assist her. Hopefully, students who attended the seminar will realize from Maha’s experience that it is never too early to assume responsibility and contribute to the future of one's country and of the world at large.”
Al Akhawayn University Community Service Program offers a platform for experiential learning where students can draw upon the intellectual challenges that they face in the classroom, reevaluate them within a social reality, and actively engage with the community. This program is conducted through seminars that draw a picture of Morocco based on the United Nation’s definition of human development and its three key indices: access to education, resources, and a long and healthy life. The program also includes a required minimum of 60 hours of community service placement in an NGO for all Al Akhawayn students; as well as roundtable discussions and experience-sharing gatherings.
“Following the famous quote of Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles ‘Experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action’. The community service program at Al Akhawayn University encourages students to rethink their skills and education purely as a value to one's own advancement in life but equally as a necessary contribution to the betterment of the lives of those in need,” said Barnsdale.