AMY THOMPSON AVISHAI

Within These Walls: Educating Girls in Rural Morocco

This series is about daily life at a girls’ dormitory in rural Morocco. My goal was to take an intimate look at the lives of ordinary Moroccan girls taking part in a historic process to free themselves from marginalization and illiteracy. I lived in Morocco as a young girl. Supported by a Fulbright grant, I returned to the Muslim country in 2004, just as reforms to the Moudawana, or Family Code, were addressing women’s rights and gender equality in Morocco.

The challenge of educating girls is especially difficult in the countryside, where the school attendance rate falls as low as 16.5 percent in the most isolated areas. Attendance especially drops off after primary school. To combat the problem, the king of Morocco has supported a national initiative to build dormitories near secondary schools to help girls in remote areas continue their education. As the king said, “We have focused our interest, first, on rural women, the group most affected by the ills of illiteracy and poverty – two issues I firmly believe are at the heart of human rights, just as they may constitute structural obstacles to democracy.”

Halima and Najia look out from an entrance to the dormitory grounds, El Hanchane, Morocco
  
Study in the dormitory, El Hanchane, Morocco
  
After class, El Hanchane, Morocco
     
  
Najia in a sleeping area, El Hanchane, Morocco
  
Checking for information posted on the chalkboard
  
Courtyard of the dormitory
     
  
Honoring king and country
  
Hanane prays in the dormitory
  
Saida studies in the dormitory, El Hanchane, Morocco
     
  
Afternoon in the dormitory, El Hanchane, Morocco
  
Secret at school, El Hanchane, Morocco
  
Dancing to their own music, El Hanchane, Morocco
     
  
Watching boys' basketball game, El Hanchane, Morocco
  
Late night dance on the bunk beds, El Hanchane, Morocco
  
Rachida walks home with her older brother, Morocco
     
  
Rachida embraces her father during a visit home, Morocco
  
Rachida cooks during home visit, Morocco
  
Studying for final exams during home visit, Morocco
     
  
Saying goodbye at the end of the school year
  
  
Halima at the end of the day, El Hanchane, Morocco