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IX. Education

Child domestics in Morocco face significant barriers to education before, during, and after working. Denial of the right to education all too often leaves children without the skills and knowledge they need to find better jobs, participate fully in society, and to exercise their other rights.122 For child domestics, who frequently work in isolation, lack of education also means they miss its crucial role in socializing children and exposing them to potential sources of protection from workplace abuses.

Moroccan law provides for free and compulsory primary education for children age six to fifteen.123 Morocco has made advances in expanding primary school enrollment, especially in rural areas and among girls, two categories which previously had extremely low rates of school attendance.124 Nevertheless, only 8 percent of Moroccan working girls also attend school—the lowest rate of school attendance of any country outside of sub-Saharan Africa except India.125 Nationwide data is lacking, but based on existing studies primary school attendance rates for child domestics appear to be far lower than for any other category of working children.  While nonformal educational programs for working children do exist, their quality varies widely and for the most part they have not been successful in reintegrating children into formal education or in reaching the most vulnerable children.

Barriers to formal education

Thirteen of the fifteen domestics Human Rights Watch interviewed had either never entered school or had dropped out by the end of fifth grade. With the exception of one domestic who completed ninth grade while working during her school vacations, none of the women and girls Human Rights Watch interviewed had been able to combine formal primary education with working. In only a few of the cases did parents remove children from school with the intention of sending them to work. More typically, parents failed to enroll girls in school or withdrew them for other reasons, or girls themselves chose to leave school. Once out of school a girl’s risk of being sent to work appears to increase considerably as she becomes, in her family’s eyes, available for work.

Domestics we interviewed told us that some employers repeatedly promised to send them to school, but with the exception of a few children enrolled in nonformal education classes, discussed below, this never happened. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a child being able to succeed in school while working the exhausting jobs documented in this report.

Activists Human Rights Watch spoke with cited school fees and related costs as one of the most significant factors in explaining child domestics’ nonattendance.126 Knowledgeable sources estimated that poor Moroccan families typically spend 300 dh to 600 dh (about $33 to $66) per child per year on school fees, uniforms, books and supplies, and other related costs, depending on the grade.127 These estimates do not include activities costs or fees paid for private lessons, although according to one educator we spoke with, “uneducated parents can’t help their children study and need to pay for special classes” for their children to succeed.128  For families with several school-age children, and particularly for families with little or no wage income, these costs may lead to decisions to “save” money by keeping girls out of school, and/or to send girls to work in order to subsidize school costs for boys in the family, or for siblings of either sex deemed to be doing better at school.129

Six of the domestics we interviewed gave school costs as the reason they did not enroll or dropped out of school prior to working. Saida B., fifteen, told Human Rights Watch, “I completedfifth grade but then there was no money left. School costs 300 dh (about $33).”130 Najat Z., eleven, said, “I left school in second grade because my father and mother are beggars, and my brothers and sisters also beg, so there wasn’t enough money for me to go to school. I liked going to school.  There are still two of us in school, a brother and a sister. My sister in school also works as a maid in a house—that was her condition for agreeing to work as a maid.”131

Almost as important as school costs in explaining child domestics’ nonattendance was some schools’ refusal to admit children who lacked birth registration documents, attempted to enroll late, or who wished to return to school after an absence.132 As many as 20 percent of children born in Morocco are not registered at birth, despite legislation requiring registration within thirty days of birth.133 Registration is possible after thirty days, but the process is time consuming.134 Activists we spoke with told us that lack of birth registration is particularly a problem for children of unwed mothers, many of whom are themselves former child domestics.135

Three of the domestics Human Rights Watch interviewed cited a lack of birth registration as the reason they had not attended school. Rasha A., fourteen, said, “I completed fifth grade but then I left school because I wasn’t registered in the civil registry and I didn’t have enough money for books and school fees.”136  Nasra J., twenty, told us, “I never went to school. We weren’t registered in the civil register. My father had six children from his first wife and two from my mother. They sent my brother to school but he didn’t have papers either so there were problems.”137

ILO-IPEC told Human Rights Watch it has recently made reintegrating twelve- to fifteen-year-old children into formal education a priority “because the schools don’t want to take these children back into formal education.” 138 Salwa L., nineteen, told us that she went to school for one year before financial problems caused her family to send her to work. When family finances improved her father stopped sending her to work, but she was unable to return to school and ended up returning to domestic work at age twelve. “I hadn’t gone back to school,” she explained, “so there was nothing to do. I couldn’t go back to school because the school refused to take me back because I had been out of school for a while.”139

Poor quality education, shortages of schools and poor school infrastructure in rural areas, physical violence in schools, and cultural biases against girls attending school also contribute to child domestics not enrolling or dropping out early.  Hiba Kh., twelve, told Human Rights Watch, “I finished third grade. Then I left school because I wasn’t learning anything.”140 Maha R., eleven, told us, “I went to school for two years but I left because the teacher hit me with a stick because he didn’t like me because I didn’t study.”141 Shaima J., fourteen, said simply, “No one in my family has gone to school. Baba told me I had to work to bring him money.”142 Abeer T., twenty-one, told us, “I didn’t go to school. My mother didn’t let the girls go to school, only the two boys. The school was far away anyway.”143

Yamna Taltit, family program coordinator for Association Bayti, an NGO working with children in need of protection, including street children and child domestics, told Human Rights Watch,

Our educational system suffers from traditional methodologies, large classes, too many subjects taught without real learning, no pre-school programs in smaller towns and rural areas, and problems of sexual and physical violence. Teachers lack training, and sometimes girls also drop out because their families and teachers fail to follow up with children having difficulties or missing school. Some families have educated members who are [nevertheless] unemployed, and so this undermines belief in the value of education.144

Taltit’s critique was echoed by other children’s rights activists and teachers with whom Human Rights Watch spoke. Dr. Lahcen Haddad told us, “The government needs to hold teachers accountable…. The Ministry of [National] Education doesn’t know how to deal with the dropout problem—they think that improving access will end the dropouts, but it is the school that rejects the children. Teacher absenteeism is a huge problem, and teaching methods are not learner oriented. Children are alienated so they do poorly and then drop out.”145 An educator with twenty years’ experience told us, “There is a lack of appropriate in-service training. We are trained in a given methodology and then suddenly they change the methodology because someone went to Canada and saw a new method. As for dropout rates—we live the phenomenon. There is no methodology for addressing dropouts nor a strategy for how to deal with it. The Ministry [of National Education] doesn’t want feedback from teachers, and there is a great lack of horizontal and vertical linkages. So the problem is that policies come from the center from those who don’t know what is going on in the field. We need a brainstorming approach.”146 The same educator also noted that “[c]hildren who don’t do homework are punished, either physically or psychologically. Physical punishment is not common, but children are threatened and are afraid. Now there are instructions from the Ministry of [National] Education banning violence but it still happens sometimes.” In its 2003 review of Morocco the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its concern over “high drop-out and repetition rates, gender and regional disparities in the education system,” and “the apparently ongoing, and rather common use of corporal punishment in schools.”147

Barriers to nonformal education

While Morocco has nonformal education programs that could in theory help child domestics transition back to formal education, thus far they appear to have had limited success.148 Some of the difficulties stem from the nature of the programs themselves. Girls attend at the will of their employers, and so these programs are unlikely to reach children working for the most abusive employers. Classes are generally short, lasting a couple of hours one or two times a week, and thus are limited in what they can accomplish. A 2004 evaluation of a UNICEF-funded informal education pilot program for child domestics in Casablanca found that “relatively few children have returned to school, while the length of informal education sessions and irregular children’s attendance at informal education sessions do not ensure that they get a sufficient learning background to return to school or access vocational training.”149 A teacher at one class Human Rights Watch visited said that some employers also used the classes as leverage over their child domestics, refusing to allow them to attend classes as a form of punishment.150

Other experts we spoke with pointed to funding shortfalls and poorly designed programs. UNICEF told Human Rights Watch that these programs were under-funded and lacked a strategy for reintegrating children into formal education.151 An activist at an NGO working with street children and former child domestics said, “This year is the first year that the secretariat on nonformal education has really begun developing a methodology. The problem is that teachers are only paid about 2,000 dh (about $221) per month and then are told to take more kids of different backgrounds. They are judged by the number of children they teach, not the quality of teaching. I was in the countryside yesterday and visited a program with one teacher for a huge area and she was responsible for children from three different levels. Also, teachers often go for long periods without receiving their salaries. Some teachers are married to other teachers so I don’t know how they survive.”152

[122] For an in depth discussion of the importance of right to education see “Failing Our Children: Barriers to the Right to Education”, A Human Rights Watch Report, September, 2005.

[123] Government of Morocco, Third Periodic Report to the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, paras. 321-323; Law 04-00, promulgated by dahir no. 1-00-200 of May 19, 2000 (15 safar 1421) amending dahir no. 1-63-071 of November 13, 1963 (25 joumada II 1383) on Compulsory Basic Education, Official Bulletin No.  4800 of June 1, 2000, p. 483.

[124] See Chapter III, above.

[125] Among countries where comparable data exists. School attendance rates for working boys are similarly low, at 14 percent. ILO-UNICEF-World Bank, Understanding Children’s Work, p. 3.

[126] The Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern over “the cost of primary education  supplies, textbooks, etc.)” in its 2003 review of Morocco. Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Morocco,  para. 52.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with an expert working with street children and child domestic workers, Marrakech, May 24, 2005, and Human Rights Watch interview with an educator with more than twenty years’ experience, Marrakech, May 23, 2005. Names withheld at their request.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with an educator with more than twenty years’ experience, Marrakech, May 23, 2005. Name withheld by request.

[129]  The 2001 Casablanca study of child domestic workers found 40.8 percent of child domestic workers under fifteen gave “poverty” as the reason for leaving school, 14.3 percent cited disaffection, 18.4 percent a parent’s decision, and 20.4 percent a personal choice.  Regional Office for Greater Casablanca, Study of Girl Domestics, p. 40.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with Saida B., May 17, 2005.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with Najat Z., May 20, 2005.

[132] The 2001 FAFO study also cited several cases of child domestics who had not been allowed to attend school because they lacked birth certificates to document their age or because they attempted to enroll a few months after the start of the school year, were refused, and then were told the next year that they were too old to start school. Sommerfelt, Domestic Child Labor in Morocco, p. 57.

[133]  In testimony to the Committee on the Rights of the Child the Moroccan delegation gave the then current level of birth registration as 80 percent, following the introduction of new legislation on compulsory birth registration in 2000.  In the Committee’s Concluding Observations, it stated it was “concerned at the rather low level (85.5 per cent) of birth registration.” Committee on the Rights of the Child, Summary Record of the 882nd Meeting, CRC/C/SR.882, July 16, 2003, para 11; Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Morocco, CRC/C/15/Add.211 July 10, 2003, para 32.

[134] For a more detailed discussion of Moroccan legislation on birth registration and civil status, see Michèle Zirari, Rapport relatif a l'élaboration d'un Code de l'enfance, UNICEF and Secrétariat d'Etat chargé de la famille, de la solidarité et de l'action sociale, January 2004, pp. 8-15.

[135] Human Rights Watch interview with an expert working with street children and child domestic workers in Marrakech, May 24, 2005, name withheld by request; Human Rights Watch interview with Nabila Tbeur, director, Institution Nationale de Solidarité avec les Femmes en détresse (INSAF), Casablanca, May 26, 2005.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with Rasha A., Marrakech, May 20, 2005.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with Nasra J., Casablanca, May 27, 2005.

[138] Human Rights Watch Interview with Malak Ben Chekroun, ILO-IPEC officer, Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview with Salwa L., Casablanca, May 27, 2005.

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with Hiba Kh., Marrakech, May 20, 2005.

[141] Human Rights Watch interview with Maha R., Casablanca, May 18, 2005

[142]Human Rights Watch interview with Shaima J., Casablanca, May 18, 2005.

[143] Human Rights Watch interview with Abeer T., Casablanca, May 27, 2005.

[144] أHuman Rights Watch interview with Yamna Taltit, family program coordinator, Association Bayti, Casablanca, May 17, 2005.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Lahcen Haddad, child rights activist, Rabat, May 18, 2005.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview, May 23, 2005. Name withheld by request.

[147] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Morocco, CRC/C/15/Add.211, July 10, 2003, paras. 42, 52.

[148] In its October 2004 submission to the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the government stated that its “non-formal education programme was introduced in 1997/98 with a view to integrating children aged 9-15 years who had never attended school or had left prematurely.” However, the government’s description of the program’s achievements suggest that many of those served are adults and children over age fifteen, and that only a very few of the child participants have returned to formal education:  “[s]ince the launching of the non-formal education  programme in May 1997, some 141,525 children and young people, 65.3 per cent of them girls, have benefited from it.... The programme has also made it possible to place 56,427 young people by the end of 2001 as follows:  49,777 in jobs, 6,274 in the formal education system and 376 in vocational training.” Government of Morocco, Third Periodic Report to the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, E/1994/104/Add.29, paras. 342, 358.

[149] Morocco-UNICEF Country Programme Evaluation, undated, [online] (retrieved October 10, 2005).

[150] Human Rights Watch interview with Sumiya Tarmila, a teacher at Markaz Sa`d bin Abi Waqas afternoon literacy program for child domestic workers, May 18, 2005.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with Rajae Barrada, child protection officer, UNICEF, Rabat, May 18, 2005.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with Amina L’Naum, program officer, Association Bayti, Casablanca, May 17, 2005.

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