The appalling football-related rioting in Casablanca last April gave rise to quite a bit of comment about the increasing violence of Moroccan society, on which I remarked in turn (Black Army, Black Thursday, Black Deeds). One of the signs of this rising tide was said to be the level of violence in schools, and today L’Economiste gives a page to the Ministry of National Education’s report on schools violence, and the policy response to it. The statistics for last academic year (2012/13) are shocking: they include “eleven cases of murder … 16 of kidnapping, 7 suicides recorded on the eve of exams, 35 rapes and 31 acts of (lesser but serious) sexual contact.” The regions of the country are ranked, Greater Casablanca heading the table with 14% of the nation’s instances of recorded school violence, followed by Doukkala-Abda (11%), Chaouia-Ouardigha (10%) and Fes (9%). And – perhaps the most sobering of all – 21% of all recorded acts of violence are against teachers and school administrators.
The report says that the schools environment “has made young people lose all value of respect” but also blames “the interference of socio-cultural effects and pedagogical activities.” Well, one can see what they might mean, but the last of those in particular is a bit odd. Violence being caused by pedagogical activities? It makes the nation’s lycées sound like gladiator training establishments. What kind of pedagogical activity could cause this kind of wave of violence? Murder and rape as a response to poor teaching seem over-reactions.
But perhaps it is something more fundamental: the frustration of pupils in an educational system which, as HM the King noted last week, is in worse state than it was twenty years ago. This year’s baccalaureate pass-rate was only 37% – so 63% of secondary pupils left school without their bacc and unable to go to university. Those that got to university found that their degrees in due course (few of them achieved over the notional three years) left them less able to find work than those who left school without the bacc. 18% of the unemployed have degrees, an astonishing figure.
So it isn’t altogether surprising that frustration mounts at the failure of public education to provide a route into a job, self-improvement or social mobility. And a growing propensity to resort to violence in the home, on the road and elsewhere is matched at school – no part of society can be immune. L’Economiste headlines Louafa s’en lave les mains – the Minister washes his hands of it – but this strikes me as rather unfair. Schools are not in isolation from the rest of society – they are microcosms of it, and they reflect what society is. M Louafa picks out the prevalence of action films (dubious) and the failure of school-parents communications (very likely) as candidates. One must have some sympathy with the man at the helm of a system with decades of pent-up, untreated problems, and he’s surely right about the communications failure.
But what of the violence-inducing “pedagogical activities” that the Ministry’s report refers to? Here we must be talking of the unreformed teaching, the over-emphasis on rote-learning, the failure of literacy education (only 55% of the population can read – though more in younger age-groups, of course), teacher absenteeism, class size and so on. And above all perhaps the failure on the part of pupils to feel their education as a collaborative venture between the school, and themselves as the beneficiaries. As Malika Ghefrane, a psychologist, puts it in an attached interview, “The school isn’t considered as being at the service of the child, and the child isn’t considered as client roi.” I love that last expression, ‘king client.’ And no, I don’t think the child is considered that way.
M Louafa prescribes (very sensibly) enhanced teacher-parent associations, and tougher on-site policing. But these are short term solutions, which may contain, but won’t solve, the problem. What really needs to happen is fast progress with the building of a really effective, child-centred, employment-focused, linguistically strong education system which can claim the allegiance of society through its palpable effects on people’s lives. Children don’t go round murdering and knifing each other if they have their noses in books and their eyes on the hills.