His Majesty King Mohammed VI, on opening up economic and educational opportunities: Viewpoint

 His Majesty King Mohammed VI

All political and social reforms and all development initiatives are basically designed to preserve the dignity of citizens. Setting up institutions, no matter how important they may be, is not an end in itself. By the same token, economic growth can only be significant if it contributes to improving people’s quality of life.

Indeed, despite the development our country has achieved, it makes me sad to see hardships endured by some of our fellow citizens in remote and isolated areas, in the Atlas and Rif Mountains, in the desert and dry Saharan regions, in oases and in some coastal and inland villages. I am aware of the gaps and deficits that have grown in these areas over the decades, despite all the efforts and initiatives undertaken. That is why, since my accession to the throne, I have pledged to spare no effort to improve the living conditions of those populations and ease their suffering.

To attain this goal and consolidate ongoing initiatives, I instructed the minister of interior to carry out a comprehensive field study aimed at identifying the needs of every douar (village) and every region in terms of infrastructure and basic social services, such as education, health, water, electric power and rural roads. The study was nationwide and covered more than 29,000 douars, under 1272 local communities.

Around 20,800 projects have been screened. They target a population of more than 12m people, living in over 24,000 douars, with an overall budget nearing Dh50bn (€4.6bn). To ensure the success of this ambitious social scheme, I urge the government to develop an integrated plan of action, built on partnerships between all government agencies and the institutions concerned, with a view to providing funding for the projects and drawing up a precise timetable for their implementation. The projects can be integrated into the vision of the National Initiative for Human Development and appended to the forthcoming programmes of the regional and local councils, which now have significant resources and power.

The regionalisation we want for our country must be the outcome of serious endeavours to find appropriate solutions for each region, adapted to its resources, characteristics, potential employment opportunities and development challenges. The region must become a hub for integrated, balanced development that achieves complementarity between the areas, cities and villages within the same region, thus contributing to halting the rural exodus.

This effort to improve the living conditions of citizens is not limited to rural and remote areas. It also targets suburbs and slums in urban areas. Accordingly, the National Initiative for Human Development programmes have been focusing on bridging social gaps in these places. The government has been instructed to attach more importance to social policies.

Similarly, I take a keen interest in the situation of Moroccan citizens living abroad, trying to strengthen their commitment to their identity and to get them involved in the nation’s development process. During my visits abroad and when meeting here with members of our community living abroad, I was able to have a clear idea about their true concerns and legitimate ambitions. I used to think that they only had difficulties while in Morocco. As it turned out, many of them also complained about the way they were treated on the premises of Moroccan consulates. There are consuls – not a majority, thank God – who neglect the mission they are entrusted with and focus on personal and political issues. Several members of this community expressed dissatisfaction with the treatment they were subjected to in some consulates and complained about the poor services provided, both in terms of quality and deadline, and about administrative obstacles.

I urge the minister of foreign affairs to take firm action and remedy the problematic situation in some consulates. On the one hand, those found to be guilty of neglecting their duties, flouting the interests of the Moroccan community abroad or mistreating its members should be dismissed. On the other hand, consuls should be selected carefully on the basis of competence, responsibility and commitment to serving our citizens living abroad, who are deeply upset when they compare the way they are treated inside Moroccan consulates with the quality of service they are provided in administrative departments in host countries. Their requests may not be met, but at least they should be received and treated with respect and courtesy. Among other issues, they suffer from slow procedures when they have a birth to register or an administrative error to correct, which costs them some of their time and money.

In the context of the reforms launched in order to serve the Moroccan citizen, the rehabilitation of education remains pivotal in achieving development and key in ensuring social openness and emancipation. It shields both society and individuals from ignorance, poverty, fanaticism and reclusiveness. I have repeatedly advocated a deep reform of this vital sector in order to rehabilitate the Moroccan school and enable it to achieve its educational and development mission. In this regard, I have entrusted the Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research with a mission to evaluate the implementation of the National Charter for Education and Training and develop a comprehensive strategic vision to reform the education system in our country.

To understand the scope of this reform, a question has to be asked: will the education our children are receiving today in state-run schools help secure their future? Let us be serious, objective and honest: why do so many Moroccans rush to get their children enrolled in foreign-status schools and private schools despite their prohibitive costs? The answer is clear: they are looking for appropriate education, based on open-mindedness, critical analysis and foreign language acquisition, which will enable their children to access the job market and start their professional lives. Despite some allegations, I don’t think openness to foreign languages and cultures will undermine our national identity, but rather enrich it. Moroccan identity, thank God, is deeply rooted and diversified, with both European and African components. I studied in the Moroccan state school, with its syllabi and curricula, but I have no problems with foreign languages.

The constitution voted by Moroccans advocates the learning and mastering of foreign languages as a tool for communication with the knowledge-based community and for interaction with modern civilisation. In this context, the world recognises Moroccans’ flair for languages. No selfish or politically motivated considerations should be allowed to interfere with any education reform under the pretext of safeguarding national identity – as that might jeopardise the future of the coming generations.

The future of the nation depends on the quality of education we provide for our children. Accordingly, the education reform must be aimed primarily at enabling students to acquire knowledge, skills and national and foreign languages, particularly in scientific and technical curricula, to be active members of society. The expected reform should also rid society of the narrow view that the baccalaureate certificate is a matter of life and death for students and their families, and that without it their future may be compromised. Obviously, some people do not want to enrol in vocational courses because they see them as belittling and only fit for inferior jobs.

Moreover, they consider vocational training as a solution for those who fail in their academic studies. We have to reach out to these people to change this negative perception and tell them that success in life is not contingent upon obtaining the baccalaureate certificate. We must take objective steps to get them involved in the dynamics of this sector.

This speech was delivered on July 30, 2015 in Rabat.

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