Dealing with school kids

Morocco has a unique pluralistic culture that lends it self to interesting occurrences throughout my day.
One that happens everyday is in CBT is my interaction with the local children that attend the madrassa aka school in my small town.
Everyday on my way to my language and culture facilitators’ house – aka LCF and “my school” – I walk past the local school and everyday there is something new to talk about once I get to “school.”
The first day walking past the school the Moroccan kids were fascinated by the other Peace Corps Trainees (PCT) and quickly swarmed us. While flattering at first it soon became scary when the boys especially began to push each other into us – I refer to myself and the other PCT who is also female and say obviously shuma things such as you have big breasts and asking if we drank whiskey.
I think the worst part was the rock throwing but that’s just my opinion as I was willing and able to yell at the kids, “Shuma,” and “Go away,” in Darija – while other PCT’s were either to shocked or desiring to make friends with the kids without asserting any boundaries.
The other PCT’s experienced different versions of this except for the one male in our group for two days at which point one of us talked to our host family and then they talked to the Sheikh and he threatened the kids with the Gendarmes.
By the next morning the school kids and the youth were too scared to even talk to us or say Salaams on the street passing us by.
In a few weeks the kids were no longer scared of us but we still took precautions such as walking on the other side of the street from the school and never stopping to say “Salaams or Labas?” but just giving greetings and keep walking was our new motto.
Finally we asked our LCF why the youth and kids are like this because it’s so different from American kids. He said it has to do with the culture of the Moroccan home – babies are spoiled and given anything they want – until the next sibling arrives at which point the older kid is now ignored unless they gain their parents attention by some clever or negative action – so there is a lot of negative reinforcement in the Moroccan home and society in general.
Example of Negative Reinforcement- The new Peace Corps Volunteer arrives and is constantly told the old volunteer had great Arabic – why is yours so poor? The Moroccans will ask. The Moroccans are doing this because this is their main method of encouragement they use with their own families.
Our LCF also shared that the Moroccan classroom is run completely differently from an American one – this we learned first hand – once we started our PACA activities.
In a Moroccan classroom the loudest student is the one that gains the teachers attention – yes there is the raising of a hand but it includes the yelling of “Teacher, Teacher, Teacher, Teacher” repeatedly and when competing with 25-40 other students it becomes a yelling rather than a conversational tone.
Combine this with the overly competitive attitude supported and nurtured in the Moroccan home and its probably one of the most crazy classroom atmospheres you will ever encounter.
We tried during activities to teach different behaviors for the youth to learn how to get attention in a positive way such as only picking kids who were sitting down and waiting their turn instead of picking the kid who keeps harassing you for it to be their turn for example.
It is not uncommon for a student to be hit or shamed based off of poor performance in the classroom by a teacher. In fact in some cases it seems like a love hate relationship between the students and the teacher’s – especially the hard teachers.
As the Moroccan classroom is filled with shouting by both the teacher and the student’s it’s easy for any student who doesn’t have that uber competitive drive to fall between the cracks and be forgotten or deemed stupid because they don’t fall within the social norms of the classroom.
I don’t even want to thinking about students who may have learning disabilities in that type of environment.
The Moroccan system of education is based on rote memorization and while this is good for the classroom its lacking in providing the skills that will make the kids successful productive members of society – let alone the economy and workforce.
However as an imported animator its my job to figure out solutions that will work within the existing framework and in some cases outside of it since I am not working within the schools but within a “Youth House,” – aka Dar Chabab.
I can see that my time working in Morocco will be a huge learning experience and is sure to frustrate me at points but inshaAllah I will create some small change that benefits at least one individual.


2 thoughts on “Dealing with school kids

  1. salams 🙂 , well as a moroccan girl, I confirm all what you said, even if the family is raising the child in a positive way, the educationnal system is destroying everythiing 😦 .. even me had this prob, i was a very shy person, even if I had good marks always, but i rarely talked in class .. only now in university that i’m gaining a little social skills !!
    and not because of the system, it’s the same .. just instead of yelling there’re other ways to atract attention (..), what saved me is voluntary work with some brothers n sisters from university .. Alhamdolillah it’s a great thing to try to make a change 🙂
    have a nice day,

  2. i agree with the whole article. Moroccan families do this a lot. Its normal to spoil your kids and then forget them when the next one arrives. I have seen this many times over and over. Plus the Moroccan families also base their interactions on who is the loudest. So like other arab families you should expect to hear a lot of shouting and screaming for a normal conversation. Its quiet scary and intimidating at first.

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