Morocco school year begins amid controversy.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia 2011-09-26
Morocco's state education continues to draw criticism from the public while the government seeks to defend its strategy.
Over six million Moroccan children set off to schools a few days ago. This year, the beginning of the school term was accompanied with lively debates over the future of the kingdom's state education system.
Moroccans have voiced little confidence in state education and are critical of both teachers and the government's strategy in this sector.
The Ministry of Education, however, insisted that much progress had been made, despite the persistence of certain difficulties. The Secretary of State for School Education, Latifa El Abida, acknowledged that there are several obstacles standing in the way of her department's strategy.
At a press briefing held on September 13th, she stressed the importance of motivating teachers, some of whom have lost faith. The official believed that improvements in other areas of the education system could restore confidence to those who work in the sector.
As for teaching methods, which have been slammed by parents and experts alike, El Abida said that the government intended to release updated versions of primary-school textbooks after this year. It also plans to develop a curriculum for children with special needs and to assess the syllabi taught at lower and higher secondary level. The aim is to teach more science and technology, encouraging more pupils to take up these subjects.
In Morocco's big cities, many parents elect to send their children to private institutions for schooling despite the overwhelming burden it poses to such families.
"It's difficult to have faith in state schools, where the teachers aren't monitored closely enough and the curricula are out of date", said Laila Zerhouni, a mother of two children who attend a private school at a cost of 2,400 dirhams a month. She and her husband have a combined income of 6,000 dirhams.
According to Social Development Minister Nouzha Skelli, the government is making significant efforts to improve schools and that more than 23% of the state budget is spent on education.
"More than 4 million pupils have received school bags and several thousand other young people have been admitted to Dar Talib, Dar Taliba and other boarding schools", Skelli stated at a Casablanca meeting on September 14th.
Another problem is the dropout rate. Some 400,000 pupils drop out of school every year. To address this problem, a scheme called Tayssir has been launched. The programme provides direct financial aid to disadvantaged families. The plan is currently benefiting 609,000 pupils and 88,000 families, as compared with 47,000 families and 363,000 pupils in 2008-2009, but is still not nation-wide.
The Secretary of State admitted that truancy, especially by girls in lower secondary schools in rural areas, is a continuing problem. Families in the countryside still prefer to keep their daughters at home for cultural reasons. The shortage of education facilities in certain areas also contributes to the problem.
"I had ambitions which were quickly wiped out. Now, all I can do is wait for a husband to appear on the horizon," 15-year-old Hafida, who lives in a douar in Taza, told Magharebia. She had to leave school during her sixth year in primary education because the school was too far away from her home.
Thousands of protesters continue to demand reform in Morocco.
Jon JensenSeptember 26, 2011
Seven months after demonstrations first began, some Moroccans are still seeking political change
Protestors gather in Marrakech on September 25, 2011 for a demonstration organised by the youth-based February 20 Movement calling for reforms in the Arab world's oldest reigning monarchy. (ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)
One day after pro-reform protests erupted throughout Morocco, videos uploaded to social media websites on Monday offer insight into the scale and intensity of the crowds that continue gathering for weekly demonstrations in the North African kingdom.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of several major cities in Morocco on Sunday, demanding greater political reform and threatening to boycott the kingdom’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
Small-scale demonstrations first began in Morocco on February 20, around the same time a similar wave of popular discontent swept across the region.
Perhaps to avoid the fates that befell neighboring rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI pledged political reform for the country’s historically weak parliament and office of the prime minister.
Although constitutional amendments were passed by a majority of Moroccans earlier this year, some have complained that the reforms - and the King’s powers - do not go far enough.
More from Casablanca: Constitutional reforms spark debate in Morocco
“Head of the army, it’s too much — head of the religion, it’s too much,” chanted a crowd at similar protests last week, according to the Associated Press.
The AP reported that Sunday’s demonstration in Casablanca, where around 10,000 people gathered, was the largest in that city “in months.”
Another 2,000 protesters marched in Rabat, the capital, to the parliament building. Agence France-Presse reported that 1,000 protesters took to the streets of Tangier and Marrakech.
This video, reportedly shot yesterday, shows hundreds of protesters marching down a crowded street in Casablanca. Other videos show different angles of the same protest in Morocco’s largest city, as well as the throngs of people chanting in Rabat and Tangier.
Protesters in Casablanca held up placards reading "Corruption is Wrecking Our Lives" and "More Social Justice", according to AFP.
Chants in that city also urged fellow Moroccans to boycott the country’s parliamentary elections, reported the AP.
Moroccans head to the polls for parliament on November 25.
Atlas to Adirondacks
College to host American working in Morocco
September 27, 2011
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer (firstname.lastname@example.org) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise
PAUL SMITHS - People in the Adirondacks can learn from people in rural Morocco, and they can learn from us as well.
That's Cloe Erickson's goal, and she plans to talk about it at a presentation tonight at Paul Smith's College.
Erickson is the founder of the Atlas Cultural Foundation, and she has been working in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in a region called Zawiya Ahansal, which is similar to the Adirondacks in that it's mountainous and rural.
It all started when she went to Morocco on her honeymoon in 2003. She had been working as an architect after getting a degree in architecture from Montana State University, but she wasn't satisfied with the work environment. She had gone back to school and studied Arabic so she could communicate with and gain respect from the natives in Morocco.
She and her husband only visited the Atlas Mountains to hike and recreate, but they found what she calls a hidden gem of a historic area.
Erickson formed the Atlas Cultural Foundation and started working to restore buildings in the area, which caught the attention of the Moroccan government. Government officials had been wanting to restore the region but had been having trouble finding people who would want to go to such a remote area to do that kind of work, so they started to fund Erickson's organization.
With that additional funding, she's been able to expand the organization's reach from just cultural restoration and preservation to also helping with community health, as well as community education and literacy.
Now Erickson is partnering with Adirondack Sustainable Communities - Erickson went to college with ASC President Todd Smith - to start a transfer of knowledge between the two regions, which she said can learn a lot from one another. She hopes to bring leaders from the Moroccan communities to the Adirondacks, as well as to send local leaders to Morocco, so each can learn from how the other deals with the remoteness of mountain life and the difficulty of getting resources in rural areas.
Adirondack Sustainable Communities currently has two local projects: the Adirondack Green Circle and Saranac Lake's community gardens.
Erickson will also be talking tonight about a study-abroad program the two groups are working to start that would send students to Morocco to help with the Atlas Cultural Foundations initiatives.
The Zawiya Ahansal region has about 15,000 inhabitants and covers about 40 square miles of land. Smith said Monday the Tri-Lakes is about the same in terms of population numbers but covers a greater land mass, so it's comparable. But Erickson said the people of the Atlas Mountains have to travel much farther for health care.
Two of the villages there only recently got electricity. Smith and Erickson noted Monday that kind of change can have a dramatic effect on a population, because refrigeration allows people to keep food much longer. Erickson said some of the residents are having trouble figuring out how it should work; they have their fridges turned up too high and freeze their fruits and vegetables.
Erickson's presentation will begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the college's Freer Hall. Erickson said she'd talk some, but she also has some video she wants to show of backcountry skiing and hiking in Morocco.
© Copyright 2011 Adirondack Daily Enterprise. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The mystical magic of Morocco
by: Lonely Planet From: National Features September 24, 2011
WITHIN minutes of arrival in Marrakesh's Medina (Old City) you'll learn a new word: "Balek!" Roughly, "Move it or lose it, donkey coming through!"
Donkey carts may not inspire the same adrenalin-rushing alertness as careering Vespas loaded with oranges, taxi drivers who mistake their Fiats for Formula One cars or carpet sellers in hot pursuit of customers with their absolute last price. But once you glimpse these carts, painted with good-luck symbols and hurtling headlong through narrow souqs (covered market streets), you too will leap to the sidelines and watch in awe as Marrakesh rushes ahead by all available means.
Where is the city headed in such a hurry? Marrakesh has a hot date with you, actually. King Mohammed VI proclaimed that by 2020 Morocco would welcome 20 million visitors, with Marrakesh as the main point of entry. Luckily, showing guests a good time comes readily to the bahja, or joyous ones, as Marrakshis are known.
The Djemaa el-Fna has enchanted visitors for a millennium, with its chorus of 100 chefs singing their own praises, Gnaoua musicians banging out funky freedom songs on ginbris (three-stringed banjos) and potion-sellers' chants promising cures for rheumatism and heartbreak.
Guests receive royal treatment in traditional hammams (bathhouses) and authentic riads (elegant mud-brick courtyard mansions that make the Medina a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Given its 1000-year history of hospitality, a 2011 cafe bombing came as a shock to cosmopolitan Marrakesh. But after surviving historic triumphs and tragedies with its spirits and pink mud-brick walls marvellously intact, this city knew what to do. Marrakesh dried its tears, gathered its legendary wits and put on another pot of welcoming mint tea.
Watch nonstop drama in the Djemaa el-Fna
PT Barnum was bluffing when he called his circus "the greatest show on Earth"; that title has belonged to the Djemaa el-Fna for almost a millennium. The hoopla and halqa (street theatre) has been non-stop here ever since this plaza was used for public executions in about 1050 hence its name, which means "assembly of the dead".
The curtain goes up on the Djemaa el-Fna about 9am, when juice vendors haul in carts loaded with oranges, potion purveyors and henna tattoo artists set up shop under umbrellas, and pedestrians begin their dance, dodging motor scooters and donkey carts.
The second act begins in the afternoon, when the entertainers arrive. Snake charmers strike up oboe numbers that are apparently irresistible club tunes among the serpent set. Like all-male cheerleader squads, track-suited acrobats attempt to rouse afternoon cafe crowds with backflips and human pyramids. But Gnaoua musicians always steal the show with syncopated songs heavy on drums and castanets; working themselves and their audience into an ecstatic trance that gets fez tassels spinning, toes tapping and everyone grinning. As always in the Djemaa, applause and tips in any amount keep the good vibes and encores coming.
When evening arrives, storytellers spellbind crowds with legends told in Arabic and dramatic gestures that need no translation. Astrologers, healers and cross-dressing belly dancers move to the periphery as some 100 food stalls set up shop and barbecue smoke rises from the Djemaa like dry ice in preparation for the evening's grande finale.
Get a higher education in Moroccan artistry at Ali Ben Youssef Medersa
Insiders say Marrakesh's palaces can't compare with its wonders wrought for the glory of God. While local mosques and zaouias (saint shrines) are closed to non-Muslims, you can see what the insiders mean at this medersa (Koranic school). Founded in the 14th century, the Ali ben Youssef Medersa was once the largest in North Africa and is one of the most splendid. Look up in the entry hall to admire intricately carved cedar cupolas and mashrabiyya (wooden-lattice screen) balconies. To add an aah to that ooh, enter the medersa's courtyard. The arcaded cloisters are Hispano-Moresque wonders of five-colour, high-lustre zellij (mosaic) and ingenious Iraqi-style Kufic stucco, with letters intertwined in leaves and knots.
Facing stiff competition from medersas in Fez, the school closed in 1962. But in its heyday, up to 900 students lived in the 130 dorm rooms here and shared one bathroom. Upstairs, a 3sq m dorm room shows how students lived, with a sleeping mat, writing implements, a Koran bookstand and a hotplate.
Revisit Marrakesh's golden age at Saadian Tombs
Who says you can't take it with you? Surely not 16th-century Saadian Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour el-Dahbi, known as The Victorious for defeating Portuguese foes of the Sudan, and as The Golden for cheating customers with exorbitant sugar prices. With his spoils, this Marrakshi Midas gilded the lavish stucco-and-marble Chamber of the Twelve Pillars to make it a suitably glorious final resting place.
The sultan kept his many wives, relatives, children and servants close even in death hence the 170-plus tombs in this compound.
El-Mansour died in splendour in 1603, but a scant few decades later Alawite Sultan Moulay Ismail walled up the Saadian Tombs to keep his predecessors out of sight and mind. Accessible only through a small passage in the Kasbah Mosque, the tombs were neglected by all except the storks until aerial photography exposed them in 1917.
Five times a day, one voice rises above the Djemaa din for the adhan (call to prayer): that's the muezzin (mosque official) atop the Koutoubia Minaret calling the faithful in all four cardinal directions, so no Marrakshi can claim to have missed a reminder of the salah (five daily prayers).
A 12th-century, 70m-high tower, the Koutoubia Minaret the architectural prototype for Seville's La Giralda and Rabat's Tour Hassan is a monumental cheat sheet of Moorish ornament, with scalloped keystone arches and jagged merlons (crenulations). The Koutoubia mosque is off-limits to non-Muslims, but the gardens are fair game and a prime location to hear the Koutoubia adhan up close.
The woodworked ceilings at La Bahia Palace
Imagine what you could build with Morocco's top artisans at your service for 14 years, and here you have it.
La Bahia (The Beautiful) boasts floor-to-ceiling decoration begun by Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s and further embellished from 1894 to 1900 by slave-turned-vizier Abu "Bou" Ahmed. The painted, gilded, inlaid woodwork ceilings still have the intended effect of awing crowds.
Though only a portion of the palace's 8ha and 150 rooms is open to the public, you can see the unfurnished, opulently ornamented harem that once housed Bou Ahmed's four wives and 24 concubines, and the grand Court of Honour, once packed with people begging for the despot's mercy. Warlord Madani Glaoui entertained European friends and tortured enemies here from 1908 to 1911, until his French guests booted him out to establish the Protectorate's resident-generaux.
Mohammed VI is more careful about his choice of royal guests, who range from dignitaries to US rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs.
This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet Marrakesh Encounter (2nd Edition) by Alison Bing, Lonely Planet, 2011. RRP: $19.99.
Hawley Rotary sends one of their own to Peace Corps
The News Eagle
Posted Sep 26, 2011
Hawley, Pa. —
Thursday, September 8th the Hawley Rotary Club bid farewell to member Dan Conklin who will be serving with The Peace Corps for the next two and a half years.
Conklin is a 1998 graduate of Wallenpaupack Area High School and a 2002 graduate of Penn State University with a degree in Finance & Marketing with a minor in International Business. During his junior year of college he participated in the school’s first Summer Study Abroad program in business at Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen Nurnberg in Germany. Dan has also studied with Goethe Institut in Schwaebisch Hall, Germany on two different occasions and passed the Zertifikat Deutsch exam with the note “Sehr Gut”. Conklin has worked for The Wayne Bank, The Dime Bank and PNC Bank.
Because of his love of learning, travel and helping others Conklin decided to apply for a position in The Peace Corps. He left Hawley, September 12th and will be in pre-service training for three months. After training and being sworn in as a volunteer, for two years of service, he will be teaching English and helping form community clubs for children in Morocco.
Conklin has been a very active member of the Hawley Rotary Club since 2005. While with the Club he was publicity chair, participated in many of the club activities and created the club’s Facebook page.
Copyright 2011 The News Eagle. Some rights reserved
Tallahassee writer wins Living Now Book Award.
By Gene N. Stuckey
Special to the Chronicle Sep. 28, 2011
Tallahassee writer Michele Vachon Beaudin received the 2011 Living Now Book Award in the women's fiction category for her novel "Crossing the Dream Line." The Living Now Book Awards are open to the North American market and celebrate the innovation and creativity of new publications that enhance the quality of human life.
"Crossing the Dream Line" is a sequel to Beaudin's previous novel, "Crossing the 50 Yard Line," which followed the lives of seven women from vastly different socio-economic backgrounds, as they strive to rediscover themselves in light of their upcoming 50th birthdays. "Crossing the Dream Line" continues this chronicle as the same women enter their sixth decade. While the first novel was composed of short stories, the latest book has the women meet and develop relationships in an exotic setting where anything can happen.
"I am excited that my novel 'Crossing the Dream Line' was recognized by the Living Now Book Award judges," Beaudin said. "I was told by readers that 'Crossing the 50 Yard Line' really struck a chord for them as they reached that milestone, and I hope they will find more to relate with in this new book."
Both of these novels are available at www.immigesandwords.com or can be ordered from Amazon and other online sites. They are also available on Kindle. Other titles from Beaudin include "The Mountain," "Seasons on Lookout Mountain" and "Visions of Reality — Illusions of Truth." Beaudin currently is working on a book chronicling her adventures as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. She can be reached at email@example.com.
e Stevens has their own Children’s Librarian (RPCV)
Published on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 by BY PAM STEVENS MANAGING EDITOR
Leaves have already started falling from the trees and the temperatures have already started dropping. With kids in school and high school football a hot topic in Lake Stevens, it can only mean one thing – autumn has officially begun.
With Fall comes the Lake Stevens Library’s Fall Storytime for kids newborn to five years old and their caregivers.
This year Lake Stevens Library has a new addition to their already entertaining and educational children’s activities and that is new Children’s Librarian Monica Jackson.
Jackson will work alongside long-time children’s liaison Melanie Liu to bring more events to even more kids within Lake Stevens.
Jackson received her Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington and worked for Seattle Public Library for many years as a Teen and Children’s Services Librarian.
“I love being a librarian,” Jackson said. “It can make a huge difference in a child’s life.”
Jackson found her passion when she was in the Peace Corps in Morocco. She saw how books were kept behind closed doors and that it was almost impossible for anyone to get their hands on these books. It was then that she realized what a treasure a library system is and the importance of ensuring that children have access to books.
“It was while I was there (in Morocco) that I decided to become a librarian,” she said. “Libraries are the cornerstone of democracy.”
Library systems around the country have seen a rise in use over the past few years and Lake Stevens is no exception. Almost 600 kids signed up for the library’s summer reading program. Two hundred of them have already claimed their free book.
Jackson and the rest of the staff at Lake Stevens Library has plenty to offer kids of all ages including the following:
• Baby storytime for newborn to 8 months old on Mondays at 11:15 a.m. This will be held in the Community Center next to City Hall.
• Toddler storytime (18 months to 3 years) on Wednesdays at 10:15 a.m.
•Preschool storytime (3-5 years) on Thursdays at 10:15 a.m.
As always, caregivers must be present the entire time.
Casper Babypants will perform “Every Child Prepared to Read and Rock” on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 10:30 a.m.
Lake Stevens Library will also be offering more teen programming in the future. Game Stop, next to Jay’s Market, will be holding a teen game event on Thursday, October 20 at 4 p.m.
Check with the library for more fun crafts and activities.
Morocco only to register 'significant' FDI rise in region in H1 2011- Mediterranean investments observatory
Paris - Morocco "stands out" from the rest of North African and the Middle Eastern countries in registering a "significant rise" in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects during the first half of 2011, underscored the ANIMA-MIPO, the Observatory of investment and partnerships announcements in the Mediterranean.
With a rise of 23% in FDI compared to the same period in 2010, Morocco differentiates itself from the other Maghreb and Mashreq countries, the Observatory said in its Review of Investment and Partnership Announcements.
Morocco “keeps investors trust and attracts the third largest number of FDI announcements after Turkey and Israel, confirming the promising positive trend recorded in 2010,” the same source went on to say.
The Observatory added that the FDI amounts remain largely under those registered before the crisis, with only 500 million Euros announced between 1 January and 31 June 2011.
Concerning other countries in the region, the effects of democratic upheavals and of current transitions were noticeable on the trend of FDI and partnerships, explained the Observatory, noting that “the fall in the number of announced projects is substantial in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, which went back to a level corresponding to the first half of 2009.”
Morocco "a recognized microcredit champion" -Focus
Addis Ababa - Morocco is a recognized microcredit champion, boasting 40 percent of client outreach in the Arab world and host to some of the best performing microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the world, a Focus note said.
According to this note, distributed during the fifth African micro-credit conference (September 19-22) in Addis Ababa, the Moroccan microcredit sector has enjoyed one of the most extraordinary growths seen in the microfinance industry.
In this regard, it noted that in just four years (2003-2007), MFI loan portfolios multiplied 11 times and client outreach by four.
This exuberant growth was driven by four leading MFIs-Zakoura, Al-Amana, Fondation des Banques Populaires, and Fondep, it said, adding that these institutions scored remarkably well on all microfinance performance metrics, including scale, depth of outreach, asset quality, and profitability.
The note said that thanks to these impressive results, Al-Amana and Zakoura were awarded several international prizes (including MIX’s world’s best performing MFI and the European prize for microfinance).
Morocco sets up social solidarity fund to support needy people
Rabat - Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance, Salaheddine Mezouar, on Tuesday announced the creation of a national solidarity fund aimed at supporting people with special needs and vulnerable people.
Communications Minister, spokesman for the government, Khalid Naciri, said, after the weekly cabinet meeting, that Mezouar pointed out during the meeting that this project comes in implementation of HM King Mohammed VI's instructions to enhance social solidarity, spur human development, promote employment and social housing and provide direct support for vulnerable people.
This initiative is the first step towards reviewing the state's subsidies system, Naciri said, adding that the rural development fund will cover mountainous areas, and that it will reach one billion dirhams ($122 million).
He said that one billion dirhams will be earmarked to finance employment, with 24,714 jobs to be created.
Mezouar told the meeting the 2012 appropriation bill forecasts a growth rate of 4.8%, and an inflation rate of 2% and was prepared on the basis of an oil barrel price of 100 dollars.
He also said that the deficit will be contained at 4% of gross domestic product.
Generalization of medical assistance for the poor makes significant progress, Minister
Rabat - Significant progress was made in implementing and generalizing the medical assistance system benefiting the poor (RAMED), Health Minister Yasmina Baddou said on Monday.
Speaking to the press ahead of the monthly meeting of RAMED’s management and follow-up committee, Baddou explained that progress has been achieved in terms of training and preparing hospitals.
Chaired by Prime Minister, Abbas El Fassi, RAMED executive committee is tasked notably with ensuring the implementation of the medical assistance implementation and extension across the kingdom.
The generalization of RAMED will benefit 8.5 million people.
Couple brings Morocco to Victoria
New shop imports handmade products from North African country
By Darron Kloster, timescolonist.com September 29, 2011
Photo:Christine Newton and Mohamed Marwan in their new Moroccan store on Douglas Street with some of the leather bags and rugs imported from North Africa.
It was supposed to be a quick trip to England and a break from her studies at the University of Victoria.
But the travel bug took Christine Newton on a wide detour to Morocco where she fell in love with the country, its culture and a charismatic tour guide and budding entrepreneur.
Five years and a couple of trips later, Newton is back on her West Coast turf with Mohamed Marwan and hundreds of other treasures from the North African desert country.
The couple opened Mazouna Moroccan Bazaar late last month, a small import shop in the commercial space fronting the Crystal Garden at 715 Douglas St. It's loaded with camel- and goat-hide bags, leather belts and wallets, rich textiles and ornate lanterns and tea sets — all handcrafted by Marwan's parents, relations and other connections from the villages and souks of Morocco.
"We're so passionate about the country, the people and what they make and wanted to share that all with my country," said Newton, 26. "There's nothing like it here in Victoria and a city like ours is very open to new products. People are moving away from factory made stuff and really appreciate something that's handmade and will last."
Newton said the couple have received two shipments of stock since opening in August. And although the tourism season is winding down, they are now marketing to interior designers and locals who are looking for unique personal items and accessories for their homes.
Marwan, 30, one of five siblings, comes from a long line of merchants and artisans. His father is a silversmith in Marrakech, which gained world fame in the 1960s as a hippie mecca and remains one of the most popular African holiday spots for Europeans.
Many of his father's silver creations are now in the downtown shop, where the couple serves traditional mint tea for shoppers and browsers.
"We want our visitors to get the feel of Morocco, the beauty and hospitality of our favourite place in the world," said Newton. "Moroccan decor and design has gained unmatched popularity in the West in recent years and has long been a secret source for top decorators and fashionistas around the world."
The couple operated Friends of the Desert, a tour company visiting small, out-of-the-way places around Morocco, for the past four years. During that time they were able to secure deals with artisans to ship goods to Canada.
There is a grand opening for the business on Sunday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tea will be poured and there will be Moroccan treats, music and henna. Call
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