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 Moroccan Supplementary Schools in the UK - When good intention is not enough!

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Aziz Samih

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PostSubject: Moroccan Supplementary Schools in the UK - When good intention is not enough!   Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:27 am

Moroccan Supplementary Schools in the UK
When good intention is not enough!

1. An insider’s view:
Anyone who is familiar with the nature of teaching at most existing Moroccan supplementary schools, would, no doubt, confirm that there seems to be a misunderstanding of 2nd and 3rd generation Moroccans, and even underestimation of their potential which results in their being treated in ways that can, at times, be described as insulting to their intelligence and risk alienating them from our rich and diverse culture and beautiful language.

Current teaching methods of Arabic have made our children despair, feel frustrated and give up on learning such a wonderful language. This is because the average Moroccan child - just like many other Arab children - in London, spends approximately ten hours a week throughout his/ her childhood trying to learn Arabic without making any significant progress.

The constant failure of the various Moroccan supplementary schools to teach Arabic, just as most Arabic schools have failed, is the direct result of a combination of factors namely the following:

1. parents’ insistence on their children’s learning by rote and preference for traditional Quran and grammar-based teaching
2. reluctance, if not refusal, of some parents to contribute towards the teaching of Arabic.
3. the tendency of some parents to see supplementary schools as free or cheap babysitting.
4. reluctance of most Moroccans to volunteer as classroom assistants or administration staff.
5. tendency of some / most parents to trust ostensibly religious schools or those from other parts of the Arab world and favour them over Moroccan schools.
6. the tendency of some so-called “community leaders” to see a vital provision such as an Arabic / supplementary school as a status symbol or / and a stepping stone to winning favours with the authorities.
7. lack of suitable venues and resources. Securing a decent / purpose-built facility is very daunting for most organisations. Hence the tendency to hold Arabic classes in community centres or mosques which generally lack the resources required for teaching.
8. insistence of some community members on controlling and running the so-called “community language schools”. This has discouraged parents and Moroccans who are in a position to contribute to our children’s education to take their services to other communities, depriving our community of a vital resource.
9. a lack of good language skills in English hinders communication between children and Arabic teachers including those traditionally provided by the Moroccan government. This clearly affects the quality of teaching and makes learning needlessly difficult.

Incidentally, similar concerns have often been expressed in various London-based Arabic magazines and newspapers such as Daleel Al Jaliya, Feb 2009.

In the absence of a viable home-grown educational model, our children have, rightly or wrongly, turned to foreign models whose influence has been invariably counter-productive.

Importing text books designed for Moroccan children in Morocco won’t do, nor would appointing Arabic teachers who lack the necessary linguistic skills to teach Arabic abroad.

2. Importing Arabic Teachers and Arabic text books – Time for a rethink!
A growing trend is that of parents’ realisation that the most effective way to retain one’s culture and language is through a tailor-made language programme that is culturally-sensitive and recognises the distinct cultural characteristics of Morocco and seeks to teach Arabic in a way that would do it justice.

It is, therefore, suggested that sustained efforts should be made to develop bespoke language programmes in line with current trends in modern foreign languages teaching.

As an experienced language teacher, I would advise the authorities that would-be Arabic teachers should possess sufficient knowledge of the language and the culture of the country in which they intend to teach.

Potential candidates would be expected to have graduated in one of the languages in question and have completed the required teacher-training course. A graduate in English, for instance, would benefit greatly from a placement in an English-speaking country and is more likely to excel at his/her job as a teacher.

This is because he/she is more likely to be receptive towards the culture of the host country and show understanding towards the children’s background; who would, in turn, find it easier to relate to him/her as someone who is proficient in the teaching medium, i.e. English.

Equally important is the need for existing teachers to organise local, regional, national and, maybe, international forums to exchange ideas and update their knowledge and skills.

The relevant parties should also consider organising summer camps that would include educational and cultural activities; for example, setting up youth forums, Moroccan film festivals, language exchange schemes, inviting senior students from the various language departments in Morocco to teach Arabic and Moroccan culture or give presentations on the different aspects of life in Morocco in the target language.

Failure to acknowledge and address these pressing concerns will inevitably fail future generations, perpetuate the cycle of underachievement amongst our community and weaken, if not hasten the severing of ties between our off-springs and our and their homeland.

3. Recommendations

1. The Moroccan community calls upon the Ministries responsible, namely the Ministry of Migration, Education and Tourism to organise annual conferences to further debate and organise the teaching of Arabic and Moroccan culture.

2. Financial institutions and other establishments that benefit directly from the contributions of Moroccan expatriates should sponsor or, at least, contribute towards the production and distribution of teaching resources.

3. Social and cultural attaches should play more of an active role in the promotion of Moroccan culture amongst the Moroccan community. Efforts should be made to develop a text-book introducing Moroccan culture and history in a more engaging manner, something similar to the books published by the French Centre for Arabic Studies.

4. Consulates should seek to organise more cultural activities aimed at 2nd and 3rd generation Moroccans, e.g. Moroccan film festivals, book fairs, creative writing competitions.

5. In order for Moroccan expatriates to contribute more effectively to the development of Morocco and in order for the ties with 2nd and 3rd generation Moroccans to be sustained and strengthened, the Moroccan authorities should devise constructive programmes and hold candid consultation meetings with our various communities.

6. The media should give us the chance to voice our concerns and resentments in relation to our views of life in Morocco, especially, the treatment we receive at the hands of public servants and other officials.

7. Al Maghribia Channel should develop tailor-made cultural programmes devised and delivered, at least partly, by 2nd and 3rd generation Moroccans.

8. All parties concerned should acknowledge that the various Moroccan communities abroad are now well-settled and efforts should, therefore, be made to empower them and encourage them to play a more active role in their countries of residence.

9. The so-called “community leaders” should be reminded that the community has grown significantly, which has resulted in greater challenges and aspirations and that representatives should be cross generational.
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PostSubject: Re: Moroccan Supplementary Schools in the UK - When good intention is not enough!   Fri Jun 05, 2009 6:41 am

You are absolutely right, good intention is not enough, especially, when it's about a very important subject like that.
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PostSubject: Re: Moroccan Supplementary Schools in the UK - When good intention is not enough!   Tue Jul 07, 2009 3:25 pm

Aziz,good of you to talk about this very crucial debate for our community.We are growing in numbers but how equipped are we to become a community with a soul and a voice that can influence decisions on matters of concerns to us? How fast are we responding to the ever-changing demands of our times? Our identity is our Capital .This Capital should be invested in our children.Our existence depends on being at ease with our origins, Morocco, with the cultural and linguistic richness and our openness to the world in our adopted country,UK, with all the opportunities for a better future. Most important of all, are we , as parents, trying hard enough to ensure that we listen to our children and understand their needs and hence a better understanding of their identity? In other words, do we invest in our children now by striving to instill in them the thirst to learn and be proud of their parents' culture and language so that we can enjoy the BENEFITS when they blossom and succeed later? We must try to devise collectively a strategy to work on this must-win matter.
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