How devastating earthquake is impacting girls’ education in Morocco

How devastating earthquake is impacting girls' education in Morocco How devastating earthquake is impacting girls' education in Morocco
A building leans over after partially collapsing in Talat N’Yaaqoub, where Education for All Morocco runs a boarding house for 52 students. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Last Friday, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 struck beneath Morocco’s Atlas mountains, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. As communities in the affected areas grapple with the aftermath, one critical concern arises – the impact on girls’ education.

Education for All Morocco, an organisation dedicated to empowering girls through education, experienced firsthand the devastating consequences of the quake. Not only did the earthquake destroy the infrastructure, but it also shattered the hopes and dreams of countless girls in the region.

How devastating earthquake is impacting girls' education in Morocco
An excavator works to clear a mountain road near Talat N’Yaaqoub. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Education for All Morocco has been working tirelessly for the past 17 years to ensure that girls in the Atlas region have access to education. In an area plagued by poor infrastructure and limited educational opportunities for girls, the organisation’s six boarding houses serve as a lifeline. These homes provide a safe haven for girls, enabling them to attend school and pursue their dreams.

The earthquake struck abruptly, catching the staff and residents of Education for All Morocco off guard. As the walls of their offices crumbled, exposing the cold, mountain air, the true extent of the disaster became apparent. Many young girls, who were already grappling with limited resources and opportunities, lost family members and their homes. The earthquake not only shattered buildings but also shattered the dreams of these vulnerable girls.

How devastating earthquake is impacting girls' education in Morocco
A building leans over after partially collapsing in Talat N’Yaaqoub, where Education for All Morocco runs a boarding house for 52 students. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

The earthquake had a devastating impact on the boarding houses supported by Education for All Morocco. These houses, strategically located in villages near the epicentre, provide girls with a safe and supportive environment. However, the force of the quake wreaked havoc on these structures, rendering them uninhabitable. In the remote village of Talat N’Yaaqoub, a supervisor filmed her bedroom reduced to rubble. Bricks, glass shards, and debris covered her once serene lilac bed frame, symbolising the destruction of these girls’ education.

The destruction caused by the earthquake goes beyond physical infrastructure. The psychological, emotional, and social consequences are immeasurable. Girls who have lost their homes and loved ones are now left traumatised, struggling to find stability amidst the chaos. The disrupted education system further amplifies their distress, as continuity becomes elusive.

In the wake of this devastating earthquake, Education for All Morocco requires immediate and extensive support. To rebuild the boarding houses, providing a safe space for girls, financial aid is essential. Furthermore, psychological support and trauma-informed education are crucial for helping these girls heal and ensuring their continued education.

Despite the destruction and despair, there remains a glimmer of hope. Organisations, volunteers, and individuals are rallying to support Education for All Morocco and the girls affected by this earthquake. The resilience and determination of the Moroccan people shine through as they work tirelessly to rebuild, restore, and ensure that girls’ education remains a priority even in the face of adversity.

Rebuilding efforts underway. In the village of Asni, the oldest house has suffered significant damage, with the quake causing holes in the walls of the library, destroying computer equipment, and rendering the building uninhabitable. Latifa Aliza, a student coordinator for one of the boarding houses, expressed concern over the situation, stating that the building is of great importance and will need to be rebuilt from scratch. The organisation responsible for the boarding houses has indicated that five out of the six will likely need to be demolished and reconstructed, with some currently deemed unsafe for entry.

How devastating earthquake is impacting girls' education in Morocco
Many families in Talat N’Yaaqoub are living in tents in the aftermath of the earthquake. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

Aliza further noted that the situation is challenging, with a significant amount of damage sustained, and many students still unaccounted for, particularly those in the Talat Yaqoob area, which remains difficult to access. Despite the difficulties, the organisation is doing everything in its power to locate and assist all affected students. Approximately one-third of the student body, which comprises around 250 girls, remains missing.

The earthquake, which struck deep under the Atlas mountains, approximately 43 miles south of Marrakech, resulted in nearly 3,000 fatalities and over 5,500 injuries, according to Moroccan authorities. The worst-hit areas were the strip of villages located in the Al Haouz region around the epicentre, due to their location and the challenges involved in conducting rescues.

Many of these villages lack basic infrastructure, and some of the most remote ones can only be reached on foot. The steep mountain roads that were once traversed by villagers on donkeys or motorbikes are now blocked or dangerously cracked, with the risk of rockslides heightened by aftershocks.

Despite ongoing efforts to evacuate the wounded and rebuild damaged structures, the chances of finding additional survivors are slim.

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