For the past two weeks, I have been living (almost) truly on my own in Rabat in a house with 11 of my fellow study abroad classmates. Well, at least independent of my Moroccan host family. I am currently figuring out how Moroccans go about their daily business, aka finding food among the many vendors on the market street. Figuring out who is good and who is, well, let’s say letting things slide, is surprisingly challenging sometimes. However, I have successfully attempted to make several dishes many involving vegetables because I haven’t gotten the gumption to venture into the meat stalls quite yet. One of my favorites was when I tried Zaalouk, a mix and mash of tomatoes and eggplant involving onions and garlic. From a person who wouldn’t normally give an eggplant a second glance, this dish is absolutely fantastic, and well worth a try for anyone who is interested in Moroccan cuisine.
Another aspect to my current Moroccan education, is actual education. For the last part of my stay here in Morocco with SIT, I have to complete an independent study project (ISP), and I am conducting mine on why children in urban areas do not complete their education. Across the board, Morocco has a very high drop out rate, 40% in most areas, and while the government has attempted to remedy this situation with two different reforms in the past two decades, drop out still remains a significant issue. Originally, this meant simply building more schools because access to education was a very real problem, particularly in rural areas. However, the current and building problem is the quality of the education in those schools. Teachers, particularly language teachers, are increasingly hard to come by, and when they are hired, many of them don’t show up for many of the classes. This can understandably be frustrating for the students who go to school and want to learn. For instance, my host sister, was constantly frustrated last year with a physical education teacher who literally never showed up for class. The one time the teacher actually showed up was the one day that she decided to give an exam, and since my sister had been used to not going to class, she didn’t show up. So along with half the class who had the exact same idea, my sister didn’t show up for class. As a result she ended up having to repeat a year because of her poor grade in physical education based on the sole time the teacher showed up for class. There are always bound to be dismal experiences in any educational system, but hearing stories like this from someone I was close to was something completely different.
On the other side of the coin, I began working at a non-governmental organization (NGO), Amal Sale, in Sale, Rabat’s sister city, today teaching English in a conversational style to high school-age kids. It was great to meet some younger Moroccans in a very relaxed and open environment. It was their previous teacher’s last day at the center, and so many where becoming nostalgic and were determined to get him to dance. Therefore, a dance floor was cleared in the classroom and music of all kinds was played as they eventually convinced him to dance with them. Naturally, I could not stand by idly, and so my first teaching experience involved talking about the futbol game that happened two nights ago (one of the students just wouldn’t let go of it) and dancing, both Moroccan style and semi-break dancing to some Moroccan hip-hop. Through this craziness I gathered that all of my future students are extremely nice. They constantly asked me questions about what I thought of Morocco, where I lived in the United States, and what I thought about learning Arabic. It was very comforting to hear them compliment my Arabic skills, which are very basic, and it was a nice change to have a conversation in English with Moroccans! Overall, I think this will be a very interesting cultural exchange, which is exactly why this NGO exists.