BGS students with the girls at Dar Asni

Student Laura Williams reports on a recent trip to Morocco

31st March – 7th April 2009

The effort of six months tireless fundraising by fourteen L6 Bristol Grammar School (BGS) students was finally rewarded when they travelled to Asni, Morocco at Easter. They would see the girls for whom they had raised the money for the first time. Education For All is a small charity with a big vision. It believes that by educating girls, you are educating the next generation; however continuing in secondary education in Morocco, especially for girls, is difficult partially due to lack of funding and partially due to the remote locations of most villages. Boys’ education is made slightly easier as some of the boarding is state funded, but some of the brightest girls remain in their rural villages letting their intelligence and potential go to waste.

Education For All wants to build boarding houses for girls, near to secondary schools thus giving girls a chance at escaping poverty and simply having what everyone should have—an education. We were the third BGS group to support and visit the charity’s first boarding house in order to see how our £ 11,000 raised over the last six months was being used.

Having visited Morocco and seen what a spectacular country it is I am sure our efforts in helping the charity as best we can will not cease. Seeing the girls in Asni was just a small part of our action packed week in Morocco. It began on the 31st March with the usual travelling thereafter we spent our first night in Marrakech. The next few days we stayed in Asni where we spent many hours playing with the horde of local village children on a picturesque hillside overlooking the valley and North Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Jbel Toubkal. We had come prepared with parachutes, balls, skipping ropes and tons of energy. Although there was a fairly sizeable language barrier football and Frisbee were universally understood. However, when some serious foot faults occurred in what was meant to be a netball game we spoke to our local guide, Mustafa, who could roughly translate what we meant!

After that it got serious, we began our three day trek in the Atlas Mountains. With our heavy luggage being carried by mules it meant we were just about able to make it up the near vertical hill! Lunch stops were always welcome with beautifully prepared salads, nice bread, fish and the love it or hate it mint tea. The on trek sleeping locations were basic mountain huts with little more than walls and floors but our guides provided us with wonderful traditional cuisine for breakfast lunch and dinner. After our final morning of trekking we drove back to Asni in order to spend the afternoon with the girls at the boarding house who had returned early from their holiday. After having a delicious lunch which had been prepared by the housemother, Latifa. We used the arts and crafts materials we had been lugging around all the way from England and made Easter cards with them. Art talents varied greatly from a portrait of one of the team members by the girls, (can’t say that John was flattered by the resemblance) but it was the thought that counts, to glittery eggs and chicks and painted flowers. After arts and crafts we presented some prizes given by BGS. One of our housemasters had donated a blue house shirt to the girls and after that we presented BGS School prizes (Cash prizes of £ 15 each to be spent on Educational resources) to the girl who had made most progress and the girl who had achieved at the highest level in the past year. The system in Morocco is different to the UK as classes are not sorted by age but on ability. The first prize we presented was to Mouna, for outstanding achievement. At the age of 12 she was at the top of the school which is an extraordinary accomplishment and one of which she should be extremely proud. Second prize went to Khadija for outstanding progress. Both these awards perfectly show just how important it is to support this charity and the opportunities they are providing for the girls.

After a few days of basic accommodation we went to the opposite extreme and were privileged enough to stay at the Kasbah du Toubkal a world renowned hotel and destination of many a famous celebrity. Here we resisted the urge to immediately shower, which for some would have been the first in maybe three or four days, and held out for the experience of a hammam. We had it privately booked at the Kasbah for one hour. You start with a sauna room where you use local soap and buckets made out of old tyres to wash your self. When overheating slightly and cleaner than you entered, you make the quick dash to the ice cold plunge pool—if you’re brave enough! Feeling definitely cleaner we spent a comfy night at the Kasbah before setting off back to Marrakech for our final day.

On arrival, it was a quick turn around where we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through the maze-like souks to our destination where we were slightly unprepared for what we were about to see and smell. The tanneries are a place which only need to be visited once and once only in your life for the smell is overwhelming. The heat did not help matters. Our guide vigorously encouraged us to take photos but the majority, if not all of us just wanted to get away from it! Our next visit was more enjoyable at a traditional Moroccan pharmacy where natural remedies were sampled and demonstrated, including a few free massages. The afternoon was spent bartering in the souks for bits and bobs. Bargains were had by all along with some absolute rip offs but generally an unforgettable experience nonetheless. The evening was spent in the Djemaa el-Fna Square with the weird and wonderful entertainment and an ice cream at a café over looking the square. A wonderful end to an eye-opening trip and the start of what we all hope to be a long running and successful project.

Laura Williams—Lower Sixth, Bristol Grammar School

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