by Brahim Chakir
This paper deals with the quality of education in the rural world, particularly the working conditions of the school teachers. It is addressed to the Ministry of Education and will deal with the problems which primary school teachers in the rural areas suffer from, namely the lack of decent housing and means of transport, low salaries, the lack of incentive compensations, and poor infrastructure. All these factors make quality education provision in the countryside difficult.
How can the improvement of the teachers’ working conditions reduce school dropout?
The teachers’ poor working conditions reduce the quality of teaching and contributes to the school dropout phenomenon. In the National Charter for Education and Training from 1999, completed by the Education Emergency Program, there are axes which emphasize the issues of the improvement of the quality of teaching, the modernization of governance and the strategic management of human resources. Among the objectives of this charter and of this emergency program is the generalization of primary education for the 6-11 year age group. The 2012-2013 statistics, provided by the Department of Strategic Planning and Statistics, indicate that the schooling rate within the 6-11 year age group is 97.9% for males and 97.7% for females. These figures are quite positive, but still do not meet the State’s ambition to generalize education, nor do they reach the objectives of the Emergency Education Program, which sets the percentage of pupils’ school failure at 2% and school dropout at 2.5 %. These rates have not been reached, given the fact that the failure and dropout rates at the 05 – 06 grade are respectively 5.7% and 12.7 %.
Education is the most important factor for progress: it provides skills and basic acquired knowledge which, when put together, make of education an effective and active factor within the community. When they lack good working conditions, teachers cannot deliver these skills to students, and this leads students to drop-out because they (or their parents) feel like they cannot understand what is being taught, or are not benefitting from school. These problems are particularly serious in rural areas.
The adopted policies
The Moroccan State has adopted many development policies for the promotion of education quality which deal with the improvement of the teachers’ conditions in the rural world.
Among these, I shall discuss one policy that has been carried out for decades, and one that has been adopted during the last five years. The first policy relates to schooling infrastructure which comprises a main central school – usually close to the commune or the central market – and several sub-schools which are located in surrounding areas. In 2012 – 2013, some 13057 sub-schools were listed. The second policy – more recent – consists in setting up ‘communal’ schools or ‘écoles communautaires’, which provide residential facilities for students and canteens. By 2012-13 some 43 communal schools had been established.
The policy alternatives regarding the construction of schools can be limited within three options:
1. Keeping the same main and sub-school system without any modifications;
2. Proceeding with the building of communal schools, and abandoning gradually the remote sub schools, in addition to motivating the school teachers;
3. Maintaining the main and sub-school system while introducing some modifications to it.
1. Keeping the main and sub-school system
The advantages of sub-schools can be summed up in two main points. Firstly, such a system allows the school’s relative proximity to the village, and this ensures, secondly, the possibility for the pupils to attend these schools in normal weather conditions – whilst in poor weather conditions this may remain impossible because of poor transport infrastructure.
The disadvantages of the sub-school system are that these schools are remote and detached, leading to frequently absent teachers and a difficulty in finding appropriate accommodation for teachers. The remoteness of the sub-schools often leads to the buildings themselves falling into disrepair and a feeling of insecurity in the schools. A further disadvantage of the sub-school system is that typically several ages of school children at different levels are in the same classroom, meaning that teaching cannot always be adapted to the appropriate level for the students.
2. The Communal School
The advantages of the communal school include that it has sufficient students and teachers to allow students to be taught in level specific classes, and not mixed with other students in classes of several ages and levels. The communal schools address many of the main reasons for school-drop out: the pupils can benefit from dedicated catering, housing and transport services and free school materials, so these are no longer such an issue or barrier for school attendance. In addition, the resi-
dential school system allows for a more rationalised human resources strategy for the teachers, allowing them to be accommodated in urban or semi-urban centres and thereby addressing the problem of understaffing in the countryside and overstaffing the in the cities. Moreover, the teachers can be more easily monitored and supervised if they are centered in communal schools rather than many sub-schools, and this could lead to higher quality teaching.
There are several disadvantages to the communal school system, the most important of which relate to their distance from village communities, or what are called the “douars and dshars” 1 . This distance from their families can lead to suffering of the children, and also a strong reluctance of parents to send their children to the school, especially when they are used to having a sub-school much closer to home.
3. Improving the sub-school system
Concerning the third alternative (which consists in keeping the sub-schools while providing them with decent living and working conditions both for the pupils and the teachers), one can say that it does not treat the problem in its totality. In fact, the problem of the teacher’s isolation, and the gathering of pupils from different levels in the same classroom will persist.
This, in turn, will not contribute to the reduction of school dropouts and failures.
Cost and Benefit analysis of the alternatives
The sub-school system
According to the 2012-2013 statistics there are 1,923,466 pupils in the country’s rural areas out of 3,475,190 primary school pupils at the national level. What can be noticed is that over half of this pupil population is in the rural areas. The failure rate within this population represents 12.25% with a total number of 235,536 pupils. Concerning the annual cost for every pupil, it is estimated at 5000 Dh. If we multiply the annual cost for every pupil by the number of pupils failing, we find that the total loss per year is 1,177,680,000 Dh. The loss of this considerable amount within the Ministry’s budget can be partly attributed to the school teachers’ poor working conditions. In addition to this, building and maintaining a network of remote sub-schools is expensive.
The Communal schools
I shall take the example of the communal school of Letrarid from the Bouarfa delegation which, after its construction, will accommodate eighty pupils on a collective piece of land 2 . Built on a 9002 meter covered surface area, the school will include a block of six classrooms, a multipurpose room, a headmaster office, sanitary facilities, a 6002 meter boarding block with an office, a kitchen, a warehouse, a dormitory with an accommodation capacity of 80 beds divided into twenty bedrooms with four beds for each bedroom, in addition to sanitary facilities (showers and restrooms). Next to this there will be rooms for the school teachers. The school’s building cost is estimated at Dh 4.5 million.
By comparing the two systems one can deduce that the communal schools have some very important assets for the improvement of the teachers’ working conditions, although there still are some teachers who are not completely satisfied with this system.
Accordingly, I suggest to take advantage of the success stories relating to this model, while gradually abandoning the subschool systems and making a sounder use of all the funds lost on the failing pupils (estimated annually at Dh.1,177,680,000).
Ideas for using this saved budget include the setting of an annual financial incentive system for the teachers; means of transport and class-room heating systems could also be improved. Financial compensations (presently fixed at Dh 700) could not only be implemented but also reconsidered on the basis the teachers’ distance from the village center and from their hometowns and also on the basis of their performance.
Due consideration is also to be made for the building of houses with more comfortable and decent living conditions. For married teachers particularly, it should be possible for their family members to join them. Water and electricity supply (through power generators and drinkable water tanks) must also be provided.
Regarding the appointments of teachers, new graduate teachers should preferably be appointed to schools existing in their home-towns or in their provinces of origin. A time limit must be set for the teaching period to be spent in the rural area, while all the new graduate teachers originating from rural areas must be appointed to the schools of their respective villages and hometowns. This allows them to acquire a basic experience in the field of teaching. This measure will also relieve pressure on the school teachers who have spent many years teaching in the rural areas. School-teachers who would like to pursue their postgraduate studies must be given opportunities to do so, just as they must be informed about the latest developments in the field of educational sciences.
1 This can be roughly translated into “village communities and counties”