Girls Education in the High Atlas Mountains: The impact of dar taliba in the High Atlas region of Morocco

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oriental Institute


Through an ethnographic study, I will evaluate the short and long-term impact of dar taliba (girls' boarding houses) at the individual and community level in the High Atlas region of Morocco to determine whether they are an effective model to support girls' development in rural zones.

This project is inspired by my experience living in an NGO-run dar taliba in 2019. Although I gained a first-hand insight into their positive impact, I also identified an incongruity between the girls' level of educational attainment and their lives after leaving. Across the 5 NGO boarding houses, girls achieve an average school pass rate of 90%, compared to the national average of 53%, but few go on to achieve their goals of studying at university or obtaining paid jobs. My hypothesis is that despite the positive impact of dar taliba, issues within the houses, such as the use of fear and violence by authority figures, create barriers that prevent dar taliba from achieving their maximum potential.

The UN SDGs aim to achieve gender equality, particularly in access to education and enrolment rates. In Morocco there is a great disparity in educational access and attainment across urban/rural and gender lines. The number of girls attending school in rural areas is just 26%, while for boys it is 79%. One of the most significant barriers to education in the mountainous High Atlas region is geographic; schools are too far to travel every day from the remote villages where girls live, and road infrastructure is very poor.

In response to the crisis in rural female education, in 1999 Morocco initiated the Dar Talib programme. Located close to local schools, dar taliba provide board and lodging to students from remote villages, enabling them to access secondary education. Dar taliba are run by both the government and NGOs.

Dar taliba have been evaluated in just one previous study (Muskin, Kamime, Adlaoui: 2011). The study found that dropout rates across 14-pilot dormitories fell to just 1%, compared to the national rate of 7%, and girls' academic success rate almost doubled from 43% in 2005 to 84% in 2006. Although this study provides quantitative evidence supporting the positive, short-term impact of dar taliba on educational attainment, it does not provide qualitative data regarding the internal operation of dar taliba or girls' personal development and lives after they leave the houses. My research will fill this gap in academic knowledge, providing a holistic evaluation of the impact of dar taliba which explores important aspects often overlooked in statistical analysis.

Within the broader aim of assessing the overall impact of dar taliba, I will address the questions:

1. What are the barriers to girls' education in the High Atlas region?
2. What short-term impact do dar taliba have?
3. What barriers do girls continue to face?
4. What is the long-term impact of dar taliba at the individual and community level?

I will base my study primarily in one boarding house and adopt an ethnographic approach, supplementing this with qualitative/quantitative data from other houses. My methods will include participant observation, qualitative interviews and quantitative data gathered on girls' educational attainment.

Research has proven that educating girls brings great value, not just at the individual level. Well-educated girls will have better educated and healthier children, which in turn helps to build the human capital that can serve a country's development goals. Female education can therefore contribute to both long-term human development and gender gap reduction.

Promoting the future success of girls, especially in rural zones, plays a pivotal role in meeting the UN SDGs. My research could influence future investments and priorities of national and international actors, in addition to identifying sustainable ways to support girls' education and rural development in North Africa and the wider the developing world.


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