17 Libraries in Zagora: Thank You, Morocco Library Project!
In an ambitious collaboration, we equipped a network of school libraries across the region of Zagora, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. This was a joint effort between Morocco Library Project, the Basma Association of English Language, and the U.S. Embassy. We're happy to say that the program is going strong! Lahcen, our partnering teacher and co-founder of Basma, shares this retrospective.
by Lahcen Ait Ahda
Prompted by the utility of cultivating the culture of learner autonomy among students in the region of Zagora, the Basma Association of English Language in partnership with Morocco Library Project (MLP) and the U.S. Embassy in Morocco equipped 17 public schools all over the province with libraries. The project was launched in 2019 in collaboration with the Directorate of National Education and Vocational Training in Zagora.
Honestly, creating resources was done in response to teachers’ anecdotes and reports during workshops organized by our association in the area. Most EFL teachers have always complained about their learner’s level of proficiency. When asked to suggest remedies, teachers usually blame insufficient exposure to English, which could have impacted their interest to learn the language. Prompted by these needs, Basma took the initiative to approach MLP and help teachers by creating libraries with books and stories. As expected, administrators at the schools expressed their gratitude.
In order to ensure that students use the books effectively, we contact teachers in those schools. Some are creating reading clubs now, and others distribute the books so that students can read at home. This program has been a success, with an impact that's growing.
While the whole project aims to promote a culture of reading, there are other minor objectives. Below are some of these goals:
The project goes hand-in-hand with the strategic view (2015-2030) of the Ministry of Education in foreign languages. According to this vision, Moroccan students should be oriented towards mastering more foreign languages before they graduate from high school. Among these foreign languages is English.
Experience tells us that students rarely devote time to reading books in the English language. This trend is believed to have been the fundamental reason behind students’ lower level in English. We believe that the creation of 17 resource centers is more likely to encourage students to read in English.
Learning a foreign language necessitates more exposure. This exposure can be achieved through books, especially in an area where English is barely spoken outside, and access to the Internet or social media, in general, is limited to affluent families. With this in mind, our project is a shelter for those who cannot penetrate the world of English from other inaccessible sources.
Reports affirmed that reading is one of the skills that students failed to master at school. We believe that by exposing students to more books daily, they can develop those skills independently from their instructors.
This partnership between Basma, Morocco Library Project, and the U.S. Embassy supplied the libraries, and now Basma organizes activities across the region to use these resources. Students are shown how to maximize the benefits of reading a book, and contests are also organized. Unfortunately, during COVID-19 the association has had to suspend activities, but we hope to begin our activities again soon.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge that all those mentioned above would not occur without Barb’s unprecedented initiative. On behalf of the Basma Association, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to her and to the U.S. Embassy for everything they have done for Basma and English learners in this region.
About the Author
Lahcen Ait Ahda is an English instructor at Errazi High School in the city of Zagora, Morocco. He is also cofounder of the Basma Association of English Language, a teachers' cooperative that seeks to bring English literacy and a space for sharing experiences to villages throughout the rural region of Zagora.