Friday's agenda centered around Mohamed's school, Ali Ben Barri High School. This was a short walk from our hotel, Hotel Boujida. We met his principal and several teachers, observed a senior biology class, and spoke to some students of Mohamed's English class. After a wonderful traditional Friday lunch of couscous at Mohamed's house, we returned for a lengthy program of a public speaking competition. Three grade groups (10-12) competed in Arabic, French, and English. The two of us had the honor of being on the judges' panel for the English portion. The auditorium filled with students and parents and remained that way for the entire 5 hours.
Speaking in public is difficult. Though I was clueless on the Arabic and French portions, I surprised myself in what I could have contributed observing other "languages" being conveyed from the stage... voice inflection, body movement, body posture, audience participation and reaction, confidence, etc. It amazes me how well many of these Moroccans can speak English. Almost none have been exposed to native English speakers for any appreciable amount. Many speak English intelligently enough to communicate well with any of us. But some speak it extremely well, and have only a trace accent. As the Moroccans do, the evening ended with mint tea and cookies (pastries) for all.
The students had a ball. A banner was made for us in our honor. 10,000 photos taken everywhere. This was fun.
You can tell in some of the photos how the classrooms are. The classrooms that I was in at Ali Ben Barri High School all seemed this way. Other characteristics of the class a photo cannot capture. These rooms do not have the luxury of air conditioning or heat. In the mornings in winter these rooms may be O degrees C (32F). In the afternoon of summer they may reach 45 degrees C (113F). But, school goes on. The rooms are not equipped with WiFi. No Internet for teachers. The only place for this is one media room that has 14+/- computer terminals. This initiative began as a program called "Genie," which successfully equipped many schools with such rooms. The support elements needed for such a place to operate efficiently isn't in place, however. No IT person. One key to the locked door that is kept by the principal. Mohamed uses this room perhaps more than other teachers, so he was given the key to keep while we are here. He may indeed keep it from now on. He explained that a teacher once had a calendar for other teachers to sign up to use. Maybe he'll now be the keeper of the calendar. The day we were invited in to see a presentation from some English language students, no signal was successfully accessed (to view their Prezi). Of course, that can happen anywhere, I guess. The signal here in our hotel has been fine.
All this leads me to research how these students can make their voice heard. How can successful expression be created and transmitted that reveals from their perspective their thoughts, way of life, desires, and concerns to people beyond Morocco? School Internet notwithstanding, Samsung telephones are about as ubiquitous here as in my school. Signals around town do exist. These students can find a way to create online content and exchange ideas with others. Maybe I can show them the possibilities.