Fatima’s daily commute to school – Morocco
Adolescent girls in Morocco continue to drop out of school. Those living in remote, rural villages are most likely to stop around the age of twelve because of lack of access to middle and higher education in their immediate vicinities. Parents of teenaged girls are often unwilling to let them travel long distances away from home due to concerns for their safety and social restrictions.
To illustrate the hardships that many rural girls and women face, we decided to follow a student on her daily commute from her nearest school to her home- door to door.
Fourteen-year-old Fatima who hails from a Berber village, called Iznaguen in the Atlas Mountains fit the profile perfectly. It takes at least three hours by road from this steep village sitting at an altitude of 4000 meters to reach a phone signal. The nearest public high school is about a four-hour drive in decent weather conditions and located in a town called Ourgaine.
Although unwittingly, we had chosen a rather eventful day to follow her to her native village. Heavy downpours that are common to the early spring months had caused soil on the some of the mountain ranges to slip, dislodging large pieces of rock in the process. Forty-five minutes into our journey, we found most routes had been cordoned off to protect travelers. With closure in both directions, we had little choice but to walk long distances, whilst crossing rivers, traversing dirt paths meant for mules and hitching rides from local trucks. Most of these vehicles carried a combination of people, domestic animals, crop and greens headed from one village to the next, dropping off passengers along the way, at a leisurely pace. Despite long toiling hours at work, our fellow passengers did not appear in a rush. Neither did Fatima, as she sat on the rickety boxes that served as seats, studying for her physics examination. After five miles of walking and changing five different means of transport, we reached Fatima’s doorstep well after dusk. The journey took a total of eight hours.
Given the unfeasibility of this commute, Fatima is amongst the lucky few to be admitted to a boarding house run by a Marrakesh based NGO called Education for All. The all-female home is just a stone’s throw away from the school and helped in convincing Fatima’s father that she would be in a safe environment and looked after.