Moroccan childhood and civil community: Bayti the icon

Moroccan childhood and civil community: Bayti the icon

By Khadija Mouatassim

Young people in Morocco are exposed to familial, social, and economic precariousness. They are defenseless with limited or no guidance, facing neglect, violence, radicalization, extremism, abuse, and sexual exploitation. These phenomena are becoming increasingly concerning for both civil society and the government.

In order to mobilize society with the tools and knowledge to address these issues, child protection systems need to be implemented that work collaboratively with the state. This includes taking the appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures whilst working with civil society. Indeed, NGOs can offer support with policy papers, frameworks, practices, programs, and initiatives.

Bayti, the story told by their people

Khadija Khalif, the coordinator of the prevention program at Bayti, has been scaling up Bayti’s initiatives since 1998, working on child-care programs as well as the social integration of young girls living on the streets.

“Bayti was established by Dr Najat M’JID, who was working with street children by offering them medical care. In the late 90s, Dr.Mji’d noticed that there were many marginalized children who were not legally recognized living on the streets of Morocco. Seeing the problem as widespread, she launched a research project that would directly involve these children, looked for stakeholders, partners and set up Bayti’s headquarters in Sidi Bernoussi, Casablanca, the only region of the city where the authorities welcomed Bayti’s project and officially offered their first building.

In the beginning, bringing children in from the streets to Bayti was a challenge. For the children, this represented a radical change that required a lot of effort from the educators who were encouraged to meet in and outside of work. Educators had to deal with police, authorities, and politics until Morocco accepted the situation of these children as reality and started to aid Bayti’s mission.

Bayti was also a school, where every Monday and Thursday educators attended a workshop led by Dr.M’jid, and other psychiatrists and sociologists to work on a case study since there was not a set academic path to becoming a street educator. Consequently, the learning-by-doing method allowed each child to be treated on a case-by-case basis, by studying their individual police record, birth registration, family, and medical file, to answer their vital needs.

Bayti’s role had to clear to these children in difficult situations, as well as their families. The organization works as a transitional station that helps to reintegrate families and rehabilitate their children. Some families find themselves in hardships that extend beyond the financial into the pathological, where parents suffer from social anxiety, ignoring how to raise their children, and sometimes hating them. Confronting these families opens a gap between the children and their experience with family members. This allowed for a structured new work approach that included host families. Hosts have to follow several procedures to prove they want the child, followed by a psychiatrist’s report, and a detailed program of visits in holidays and weekends. This prevents children from being rejected by the host families as well as their biological families.

For those children who have grown up on the streets of Casablanca and whose behavior need to be rehabilitated, Bayti has created a “Farm School” experience in Kenitra. This offers total isolation from outside disturbances and limits the opportunity for children to cause problems. The farm school protects them from drug addictions and the instability of the outside world where they escape the authorities and family problems. It also offers an opportunity to start a career in agriculture, so they can be financially independent after two years of training and internships.

The second chance schools approach also gives some insight into how Bayti has worked on the academic reintegration of children who have dropped out of school or have no previous schooling experience. At their headquarters in Sidi Bernoussi, there are two classes. Every September and October, the team goes out looking for these children, motivating them and their families to go back to school even when it involves persuading and convincing parents. Dropping out of school is not always due to poverty, it can also be about how the parents perceive education, schooling, and what a child needs.

The Sub-Saharan community also benefits from Bayti’s services, they receive support, and they are helped by contacting their country’s consulate in Morocco to obtain their papers so they can find jobs. Even though this community’s dreams lie in Europe.”

Bayti’s sociological approach

Dr. Yacine Ajana, professor of Sociology at Mohammadia University, researches the sociology of religion in modern societies, as well as the sociology of the family, women and young people, as well as sociological practices.

From a sociological perspective, what do you think about Moroccan NGOs such as Bayti working with young people?

These kinds of organizations are part of the civil society fabric that Morocco needs, they are non-governmental, have appeared in modern societies, and offer certain services to different social categories (Aged care, Disability care…).

Bayti is an icon when it comes to working with children. Through their services, they help reintegrate children into society, just like their friends who are living under normal conditions as a sort of equity. We all have a responsibility to work on our society; we have to be in charge of childhood and its difficulties.

On meeting children at Bayti, many shared their stories where they were victims of bullying, which sometimes forced them to drop out of school.

How does bullying contribute to religious extremism as a violent reaction toward their classmates?

Bullying is a social behavior, and in a society, not all behaviors have to be ethically understood. In Moroccan society, bullying is present as we grow up grows up with and that has significance and leads to two major questions.

What causes bullying? In addition, where might it lead?

Unfortunately, in our society, since childhood integration systems are based on discovering manifestations of violence, bullying generally manifests itself regarding a child’s physiological appearance. These practices make up the social upbringing of Moroccan childhood, which is caused by a lack of programs based on ethics that teach children how to act and react as a part of a society. Children are not taught how to understand moments of vulnerability because the curriculum is mostly pragmatic, focusing on receiving knowledge and reciting it. The pedagogy used teaches children that school is not for playing or pleasure, but for doing. There is no diversity regarding the approaches that are followed; consequently, children absorb demonstrations of power relations at school and home, where the strongest person has authority over their entourage. Children then resort to bullying to establish authority.

If a child is a victim of bullying, they may react by bullying others themselves, or by being emotionally influenced which leads to their exclusion from the community, to the point that anyone who is their friend them will be a victim too. It is important to start acting against bullying as it reproduces a hierarchical approach in which children will deal with their community. This starts with the family, where violent ways of bringing up children need to be abandoned. Families must work to discover communication mechanisms that teach about the ethical measures that need to be respected, and that bullying is abnormal.

It is hard to confirm that being a victim of bullying leads to extremism, but we cannot deny it either. When it comes to bullying in connection with religious extremism, there are no previous studies or data to rely on in order to ascertain a clear cause-and-consequence relationship. However, that does not mean we should not explore the subject. We need an observation field (school, for instance) to invisibly observe how the group interacts. This should be built on the hypothesis of how Moroccan culture across the family, schools, streets, politics, and the media, teaches children that there is no place for the weak and the vulnerable, keeping gender as a parameter. To make an end to the followed scheme.

Any solutions?

If children are bullies, it is because of older ones and their idols. To fight bullying as a society, we should start with educators learning how to notice it and deal with it without violence. In addition, the family, the media, schools, and the implemented policies by the Ministry of Education should be mobilized to protect our children because the scars of bullying are deep across the whole community.