So, this school-building lark is taking shape, slowly but surely. Our kids, along with the kids from 3 other families, have been getting daily lessons from our wonderful teacher, Dorotta.
Dorotta shares our view that children should be encouraged to learn the things they like to learn, and not forced into a timetable. The British syllabus has not yet arrived, but should be here in about a week. Until then, the kids have a project to build a den in the olive grove next to the house which we are currently calling “The School”. They are swimming in the pool daily, we have the local Tae Kwondo teacher coming three times a week to teach them martial arts (which they are loving) in the garden. Joe has a Russian tennis coach. We are currently finding Arabic and French teachers to come and give lots of language lessons.
In England, our kids were being taught nonsense about things like nutrition and history, so that will be addressed here. They will also take part in the development of the school, helping make decisions about how it should be run, etc. to develop a sense of personal responsibility and independence. It is also important that they keep a foot in the “real” world by using an accredited UK syllabus, but the way that syllabus will be delivered is down to us which will be far more holistic and fun than in the sausage factory back home.
We are also spending some cash to build out a new school house, instead of borrowing the house of one of the parents, Alain. This new school house will be able to accommodate at least another 10 children should any other parents want to join us on this journey in the next 10 months. Here’s Joe giving us a little peek…
As a reminder of what inspired us to do this, here’s another chance to watch the wonderful work of Ken Robinson:
On Sunday, we were invited for dinner at the home of Hafida, our cook. Hafida and Fatima Zahra have made our life in Morocco a dream. We are bringing up five little kids, running two businesses and trying to get our house, which is far from finished, in order. We have quickly become friends with these wonderful women, so it was a complete honour to be invited into Hafida’s home.
In a previous video, Katy was quite emotional because she was overwhelmed with the apparent poverty that many Moroccans live in. I expected to feel the same when we were driving to this place after spending the morning at the brilliant Oasiria – le premier parc aquatique au Maroc – but instead I felt overwhelmed with love and kindness and, although the house would shock most Western sensibilities with it’s unifnished walls, it’s outdoor hole-in-the-ground toilet, it’s bamboo roof, it’s rough mud floor…it struck me that this was not much different to where I grew up in a Northamptonshire council house. Although not quite as rough, we had a very simple life where we grew our own vegetables, hung out together, were always playing outside. We had no electronic devices (in fact, Hafida’s satellite TV was far better than the small black and white I had) and we had the same sense of living in the present that these people do. My parents worked hard in a factory and my Mum was a cleaner, a cook, a village post-woman. There was little money. It was very hand-to-mouth. There were lots of laughs and, I imagine, Hafida’s kids could hear their parents having sex the same way I did when I was a kid because there was nowhere to hide!
The welcome we got, full of smiles, hugs, kisses and the man of the house holding my hand as he proudly showed off his sheep that were being ready for the kill at Eid, which is coming up soon, was wonderful, spiritual and heart-warming.
On the way, Daisy said she didn’t want to go to Hafida’s house (mainly because she was enjoying Oasiria so much, which was her birthday treat), but she and the other children very quickly felt the love and were running around all afternoon having great fun in the dust without an Xbox or iPad in sight.
One of the reasons we moved here was to give the kids an authentic experience. A view of the world which is wider than they were getting in a Cheshire suburb.
George is not sure about this sheep…
We want them to travel the world and see how other people live so they can develop a sense of perspective, compassion and understanding of other cultures. I never left the UK until I was 14 and although I have traveled extensively since, it took a long time for the country bumpkin to leave me. If you ask Katy, she’ll probably say it’s still there.
The dinner itself was a feast of Moroccan chicken (jezsh), Moroccan salad and home-made bread. Although I have been off wheat for over two years (99%), it felt rude not to eat a little and also rude to turn down the coke and fanta they laid on (which is very expensive). When in Rome…stuff your principles occasionally.
Here’s Katy introducing Hafida:
Then Hafida made some Moroccan tea outside. I have to say that I am quite aggressively against sugar – it is a terrible poison in it’s processed form that is causing havoc with our hormones, immune systems and general health – but these people consume sugar in spades, especially in their minty green tea. Of course, the kids love it because it is so sweet, but to be polite, we all drank with smiles on our faces with teeth that may not be there much longer if we had to do this every day:
After dinner and tea, came the call of the Muezzin from the tannoy on the top of the mosque, which was only a few yards away. The first time I ever heard this noise was on a trip to Cairo ten years ago. I admit it was so alien to me that it freaked me out then, but I find the sound rather lovely now. It certainly makes a change to the church bells I grew up with.
It took us a while to investigate the strange little mud-hut in the courtyard. At first, I though it was a storage area, or a dog house. Turns out it was a beldi hamman ie. their bathroom. I have talked about hammans before on this blog, and have enjoyed many a spa-hamman. This was an entirely different, home-made proposition. Beldi means “rough”, “handmade” or “organic”, dependent on what you are referring to. In the west, we might refer to this as “Eco”.
It turned out that Hafida’s husband, Abdel, was currently out of work so, in typical style, we asked him if he could build a beldi hamman for us in our garden. He agreed to start work the very next day!
It’s a rollercoaster, but it is happening. We have a teacher, we have a manager, we have premises and we have the will of 5 sets of parents to get this English School in Marrakech off the ground. Ultimitely, we want to build a green school here with a UK curriculum and a big emphasis on creativity, healthy food, and letting the kids follow their passions, rather than some government dogma. It’s the first day of school, it’s exciting, it’s a humble beginning, but it is a beginning 🙂
Five days later, we’ve got furniture after a massive haggle after the delivery men refused to unload our dining table and piano, but still no internet – although the pool is filling up with water at last. But, some rough news about the new school…
This is my video diary from Friday 29th August about our move to Morocco. Is it possible to take five little kids to a totally foreign country where only one of us speaks the (secondary) lingo ie. French? Is it possible to run a virtual business from here where the internet is patchy to say the least? Is it possible to educate your kids to a standard that will serve them the rest of their lives? I guess we’re gonna find out…