I recently began a new regular interview series. There are always lots of “hot spots” around the world — places where there are natural disasters, political upheavals, etc. And English teachers can be found in most of those places. If you are an EFL/ESL teacher in one of those areas, please let me know.
Today, Abdellatif Zoubair from Morocco has agreed to answer a few questions:
Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m a teacher supervisor in Agadir, in the South west of Morocco. I`m mainly responsible for the in-service training of about 130 teachers of English working in middle and high schools, both private and public. My job consists in observing teachers and providing them with feedback and guidance to help them improve and grow professionally. I also organize seminars and workshops relating to ELT methodology. Recently, Ive tried to help teachers make use of ICT to improve the quality of their instruction, and consequently that of students` learning. You can see some of these products on my Facebook page as well as on my website.
I first got interested in learning English from high school. I liked my teacher`s methodology and the language, especially the grammar that sounded simpler to me to master, compared to Arabic or French, that are my first and second languages respectively. I got a B.A. in English language and literature, then a diploma in ELT methodology. There was not much else one could do with such a degree at that time (1980). I taught for five years in my hometown, Taroudant, (one hour drive east of Agadir), then was appointed a supervisor in 1987. In the meantime, I was also in charge of test design at the regional academy for education and training.
What has been the impact of the “Arab Spring” in Morocco?
According to most analysts, Morocco is probably one of the very few Arab countries where the impact of the ‘Arab spring’ was the least felt. Morocco, just like many other Arab countries, had and still has to face serious social and economic problems relating to unemployment, illiteracy or corruption.
But unlike such countries, citizens here enjoy a relative degree of freedom, something you could feel through the media. We do have an elected parliament. The king still enjoys decisive power. Despite all the criticism from different spheres, the high majority of people consider him as the symbol of the unity of the country. By the way, he`s done a lot since he took power in 1999 to help the needy in both urban and rural areas. Another thing is that workers and civil servants could go on strike, something unimaginable in most Arab countries before this spring.
There was a recent terrorist bombing in Morocco. Can you share what happened and its impact on your country?
It turned out that the young man who committed the bloody crime, and his associates, were fervent fans of Al Qaeda and its doctrines. By choosing Marakech precisely, they wanted to hurt not just the tourist industry, but also the image of the country as a relatively safe area, that people / tourists from neighbouring Europe (just 10 miles) away could easily access for holiday as well as for long-term investments.
How do you think students at your school feel about what is happening in the Arab world right now?
That created a general feeling among most students that they, as youngsters, have the right to rebel, demonstrate, express their anger and dissatisfaction not with school or university systems, but also more global issues relating to democracy or human rights.
What are your predictions for Morocco’s future?
The impact of the last demonstrations will hopefully show politicians and decision makers in the country to keep in mind that portion of society (youth) and their growing demands. Up to quite recently, they have been regarded as kids who are not mature enough to have a say in the running of their communities or their country.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
Morocco has also been known throughout its history for being a land where people with different faiths have been coexisting peacefully. Although the vast majority of citizens are Muslims, Christians and Jews are considered as ordinary citizens who deserve respect and have the right to practice or worship in churches and synagogues that are scattered in major cities and towns.