Saturday, June 26, 2010


One of the Coop women who works from home brought in 2 small handira of all wool (including the warp!), all naturally dyed. Ham-du-li-lah! Fatima showed them to me to see what I thought. She also took them to show the mundub when we met w/him on Thursday in Zouia. He loved them and told them to be certain to label these products w/the correct materials. Tbarkalikum bzzaf! This is exactly what I’ve been trying to get them to do. Fatima keeps referring to the Tounfite Assn’s new all wool/natural dyed products as her model. Perhaps this, along with their realization that the newer, more subdued and ‘natural’ colored hanbels are the ones that people are buying as soon as they’re made, is getting through. Fatima also shows me the wool that she dyed herself at home using a plant I’ve not yet translated-it made a beautiful deep burgundy dye. Check that-she did this at home! She also wants me to include the natural dye information and photos in the display book that I’m developing for their new showroom (and to take to Expos). We’re making progress, swiya b swiya. Hamdullah.

They continue to work on the building extension behind the workshop and the showroom. Inshallah they’ll both be complete before I leave, as I’d love to help them set up the showroom. I’ve been making small purchases and putting together display information sheets to help them communicate what they make, how these products are made, and how to use them. Tomorrow I’m going to sit down w/Fatima’s sister, Hind, to finalize the Arabic information. See, I create the documents in English, then used Google translator to translate to French and Arabic. Then I need it proofed and edited. The display info (and exhibit book) will be in French and Arabic only, and since my Arabic literacy is very slow going, I’ll need Hind to be my editor.

On Thursday I also spoke w/the mundub about the concept of pursuing registration of Adwal's handira design as a ‘Ribat El Kheir’ design. This black and white, intricate weaving with different Berber designs in alternating rows is probably my favorite pattern in all Moroccan weaving. In addition, I rately see it for sale in the carpet shops, so it is quite unique (in a country filled w/carpet shops selling all the same stuff). The mundub likes the idea and gave me the go ahead to pursue it with the Fes Ministry office. It’s not like it will be a protective copywright-bootleg/fakes are rampant in Morocco-but it may help Adwal market their products as unique.

Lunch at the Coop today? Rice, cooked in milk. Sugar added. Washed down with sweet tea. Mmmmm-was that my blood sugar that just spiked?

I also need to sit down with the women of the Couscous Coop, and soon. When we met up with the mundub on Thursday, he was actually in Zouia to meet w/the Couscous Coop women. They were asking his advice re; selling their handrolled couscous to Marjane. Marjane is the WalMart equivalent in Morocco. Not nearly as big or prevalent, but the only high volume store chain in Morocco-in big cities only. For obvious reason, the mundub was advising them that they need to consider their ability to scale up production (there are only a few of them who hand make it occasionally in a small room in their small restaurant) and they need to come up with packaging and labeling-neither of which are in place yet. What I didn’t hear him advising them on was costing and pricing. Marjane sells their couscous for about 10DH/kg. The women need to determine if they can produce, package, deliver and profit at a price to Marjane that allows sufficient margin for this tough-negotiating end-seller. They need to do this before they worry about packaging, labeling and volume. I’m gonna talk w/them about doing a costing/pricing workshop to help them sort thru these questions. I also want to help them think about alternative selling channels. Everyone always wants to start w/Marjane. Perhaps they can get started on a smaller scale, ie; selling out of their own restaurant, thru local restaurants that also sell products, hanuts in town, etc. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m working w/the ATPF Assn women (the new Women’s Assn) on their marketing and financials. Gave them sales and expense sheets to track their selling and production patterns on a daily/monthly/annual basis for planning purposes. I also just sent off a grant request to the women of the Center for Women and Democracy on their behalf (the President met w/CWD when they visite REK in November). Pete worked w/Meriem to write the request, and I helped them edit it to make it specific to their needs. They really do need a refrigerator, large oven, and blender. We’ll see what feedback we get from the CWD women.

I also sat down w/Meriem to talk about their marketing materials. She had examples of several very nice, 2-sided, full color brochures, and wants to do something similar. I told her I’m happy to help her do whatever she wants, but had she priced out the printing of brochures like this? No. Well, I have quotes from 2 Fes printers. Show her the quotes. She asks where does Adwal print their brochures? They don’t. Because they don’t have 1000DH to spend on printing brochures. Instead they photocopy them in b/w at the belladya’s office for free. Hmmm. Meriem agrees to consider alternatives. They definitely need something, but I know I can help them design a b/w brochure or flyer that works as a menu, for command orders and marketing if they go to any Expos. Again, stay tuned!

Funny story from Pete today over coffee at the cafĂ©. Says his mudir at the Dar Chebab always wants to speak to him in English, and sometimes he hears the mudir practicing w/an audio French-English program on his computer before talking w/Pete. Yesterday, Pete heard the mudir repeating ‘retire’ over and over and over again. Confirms rumors Pete’s heard in town. It appears a change is on the horizon at the Dar Chebab.

I love the newsfeeds that we get occasionally from M’Hamed, the Peace Corps Morocco librarian. The most recent one was an interesting mix of optimism w/increased Bac scores (like the US High School competency exam, but more on that later), increased employment statistics and an article highlighting the ongoing issue of child labor (primarily working the family business and getting no formal education).

This comes on the heels of another article I read recently on the status of the public education system in Morocco. Right up front is the issue of teachers who are typically assigned initially to rural villages very far from their homes. They typically have no desire to stay or integrate into the community, and tend to not have a vested interest in the quality of the school and teachings (per the article). There are multiple teacher’s unions, and they strike frequently, but not at the same time. A child might show up to class to find that his/her teacher is striking that day so class is cancelled. In addition, the class day is based on an old French system where kids may have one class in the morning and another late in the day. There is a 2 hour lunch break when everyone goes home. The gate is locked between classes and during lunch, to minimize disruption to those in class. This leads to a lot of kids just hanging around-you don’t have any way of knowing if they are cutting class or don’t have one at that time. Who’s on first?

So as I paste the article just rec’d from M’Hamed, need to also let you know that public school is free. Public University is free as well. However, your score on the Bac test determines what University and study path you are eligible for. Oh, and you have to pay your own room and board (which eliminates many otherwise eligible students). And now for the article….

Morocco Bac pass rate soars. Siham Ali 2010-06-24
Ministry of Education statistics for 2010 show a much higher bac pass rate than in 2009, but 44% of Morocco's candidates still have to re-take the exam to pass. Morocco's 2010 baccalaureate pass rate is 34.75% higher than last year, according to Ministry of Education data released along with exam results on Tuesday (June 22nd).

Secondary schools throughout Morocco posted the bac marks, ending days of anxious waiting for students and their parents. While there were scenes of delight for some students and their families, there were also tears and sadness for those who failed to make the grade in their first attempt. Of the students who took the bac, 44% must take the re-test if they hope to pass.

Malika S. was unable to hold back tears of disappointment when she saw her son's name on the list of pupils who have to resit their exams; he earned an average grade of 9.94/20. "My son is hard-working and prepared for his exams," she told Magharebia. "He'll be shocked when he hears the bad news, especially since he was just 0.04 points away from passing. He has another chance with the resit session. I hope with all my heart that he'll get through the resits."

Even some students who passed the bac were disappointed with the grades they received. One of them was Safae, who would have preferred a mark of "good" to "fair". "Studying medicine was my dream, but my mark will not allow me to realise my childhood dream," she said. "I think I gave good answers to the questions, which weren't very difficult. I no longer feel optimistic about my future. My parents will be so disappointed."

Some 35.1% of the 335,680 candidates who took the exam passed the test in the first sitting, the Education Ministry said. Nearly half (43.78%) of those candidates enrolled in schools passed the exam, while 52% of those who passed were girls. Sciences, maths and technical students saw the highest pass rate of all candidates: 48.67%, five percentage points higher than in 2009. For literary and creative subjects, the pass rate rose to 30.81%, compared to 24.43% last year. The pass rate will rise after students re-take the exams on July 5th-7th. More than 125,000 pupils will participate in this second round.

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