Learning Curve: Morocco Debates How to Integrate Young Migrants
April 24, 2018
As Morocco navigates a growing immigrant population from sub-Saharan Africa, its classrooms are becoming laboratories for integration strategies.
In Rabat, two students with French-accented Arabic acted out a storied episode in national history: the 1975 march of hundreds of thousands of citizens to “reclaim” the Western Sahara from Spain. Yet that march is outdistanced by the journeys these students had made—from Cameroon and the Congo—to find themselves on the frontlines of Morocco’s immigration debates. As the kingdom navigates a growing immigrant population, its classrooms are becoming laboratories for integration strategies.
Millions of North Africans have emigrated to Europe for decades, especially to Spain and France. Now, a host of factors have made North Africa a growing destination for migrants, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa. Morocco has gone furthest to integrate newcomers, and it is looking to the education system to weave them into social and economic life.
As the government prepared to “regularize” the status of 25,000 mainly sub-Saharan migrants in 2014, it opened public schools to their children. Officials counted 6,200 enrolled in late 2017. With a Moroccan school population in the millions, the African migrants remain a small minority. In some districts, however, African students are a quite visible presence.
Authorities are working through ways to acculturate young immigrants—designing curricula on Moroccan culture and teaching students Morocco’s many languages: French, formal Arabic, the country’s distinctive spoken Arabic, and even occasionally the Berber Tamazight language.
But educating immigrant children reminds some Moroccans of the ways in which many of their compatriots remained isolated generations after arriving in Europe. An active debate is underway for how to learn the lessons of Moroccan emigrants in Europe when teaching lessons to young African immigrants in Morocco.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.