Even though today was meant to be an off day, it was still plenty busy for Lily and I. We started our morning off at 7:30am when we woke up and left with our host mom to the school that she works for. The Malaika centre specializes in educating children between the ages of 5 and 15 who have cerebral palsy or Trisomy 21. Originally 40 students attended the school, but due to poor funding and a lack of transportation 2 of the students were unable to continue.
Upon arrival at the school we got to meet some of the kids as they were arriving at school and the ones that weren’t too shy approached us with huge smiles on their faces and gave us hugs and kisses on our cheeks. After school had started, our host mom gave us a tour of the school and then let us sit in on some of the classes.
In the first class we sat in on, the students were between the ages of 6 and 8 and they were learning numbers, colours, shapes, and how to write their name. One of the students, while I wasn’t looking, pulled lightly on my hair. He then spent the rest of the class joking about how he was going to cut it off; the close proximity of a pair of scissors to him was slightly unnerving.
After this class finished there was a recess where Lily and I went to buy the children yogurt, and after recess we went and sat in on a different class. This class had 3 students who all had varying degrees of cerebral palsy. We learned about the types of evaluations the students undergo, and the way that their progress is tracked. We also helped one of them write letters in arabic, and spell their name using letter cards. One of the students even taught Lily and I how to count in Arabic with the assistance of his teacher.
However, the idea of positionally really came into view while we sat in on this class. Because Lily and I were in the class and spoke very minimal arabic, the teacher got a little bit distracted from her students and started to focus more on learning about Lily and I and teaching us new words in Darija. Because of this I felt like not only were we taking away from the students’ one-on-one time with their teacher, but we were also influencing the activities within the classroom during that time.
One piece of knowledge that particularly saddened me during our trip to Malaika was that upon discovering that their child is disabled, many fathers abandon the child and their wife. This is the result of many different factors, most of which tie back to a lack of resources and a lack of education and awareness about the disability.
Albeit bittersweet, the opportunity to visit Malaika was one of the most fascinating and touching experiences of this trip. It really made me curious about how children with disabilities are raised and educated in places like Morocco in comparison to how they are in countries like Canada. Seeing as this issue also ties back strongly into the topic of maternal and infant health, I hope that maybe I can pursue this topic further for my final paper. This experience is one I will always be fond of, and I couldn’t be more proud of my host mom for being involved in such a loving and caring community.