Al Alam, november 27, 1988

Among the numerous objectives to which the newspaper "Almaghrib" carried a particular interest, the problem of teaching occupied a priviledged place as a basis principle of the rise of the nation's level during the period of the French Protectorate. The first reformers of the National Movement had committed themselves, although they were in full confrontation with colonialism and its acolytes, creating a brusque conscience awakening within the popular layers as well on the political, as on the economic and social plan. It was the period when the projects of creation of free islamic institutions started to be carried out in the large cities of the country to counteract the current of "Francization" and "Occidentalization" that the Administration of the Protectorate tried to accelerate in order to make at the disposal of this foreign current the means it needed to ensure the success which it envisaged to reach.

Traditional teaching was exempted at the "Karawiyin University" in Fès and the "Yousoufia University" in Marrakesh. But the programs of studies were out of date and the methods of teaching antiquated so that the profitability of these two universities was plusminus equal zero and was far from that obtained thanks to the advanced methods of modern teaching. This made indispensable the launch of the reform campaign dictated by the worries of safeguarding the symbols of the nation, namely Islam, Arabism and Moroccan identity. The reformers were mobilized to denounce in their writings the retrograde state of traditional teaching and propose adequate solutions to ensure a greater adaptation of the old fashioned methods to those of modern teaching. Considering the fact that the Karaouiyin University was seen, since time immemorial, as the cradle of science and the source of knoweledge for the learned man, as well as the guarantor for the arab language and the shield which has always defended the values of Islam, it was consequently most urgent to replace such a university on the level of the responsibility of which it was invested since its creation at the beginning of the third century of the Hegira (mid nineth century p.C).

On the basis of this reflexion, the newspaper "Almaghrib" published a series of articles whose major concern was the reform of the Karawiyin.

In an article published in numbers 100 and 101 under the title "Tne Karawiyin is a Moroccan University and not only a Fassi one", the jurisconsult Abou Bakr Zniber tackeled the question of the teaching methods and their adaptation to the situation of the present time, criticizing the unimportant production of the professors of this university and their sterile recourse to antiquated methods of transmission of knowledge. He raised the question to know if these professors are going to awake from their deep lethargy and engage towards the way of progress, following the example given by their colleagues in Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad or, closer to us, their fellow teachers of the Tunesian University "Al Zaytouna."

The same author published in the issue with number 114 of march 8, 1939 another article entitled "The Karawiyin is a Moroccan University. who is responsible for its revival?" He approached in this article all kinds of difficulties facing this university. He took again the same topics in the following issues and insisted on the necessity of improving the methods of the traditional teaching to enable it more accurately to reflect the degree of culture and civilization of this country.

When His Majesty Mohammed V - may God have him in His Mercy - proceeded to the reform of the "Council of the Ulemas, the justice and the magistrature", the same author wrote in number 346 an article in which he expressed his optimism as regards the repercussions of the measures which have been taken on the future of this citadel of the knowledge.

The newspaper published on the same subject another series of articles signed by its director Saïd Hajji who, in addition to the patriotic fervour which animated him, was characterized by a rational spirit and a high maturity in many a branch of knowledge.

In his editorial of number 112 of march 3, 1939, he encouraged the students of the Karawiyin to study foreign languages which open broad horizons that the only arabic language can never perform, quoting the example of the famous authors of Egypt and other countries of the Middle East, such as Taha Hussein, Abbas Mahmoud Al Akkad, Hassan Al Ziyat, Khalil Mardam, and Al Jabri who enriched the deep knowledge of their arabic background by the addition of a foreign language. He concluded his article in these terms:

"Is it permitted to hope that I can find one day in the enclosure of the Karawiyin some students who opt for this orientation and add to the knowledge they obtained in the traditional teaching of the arab language and islamic science further instruments for a modern culture? By so doing, they would contribute to pose the second stone in the formation of a new generation of students who would combine the culture inherited from their glorious past with the prospects of a radiant future for the cultural life in Morocco."

In the editorial of number 102, Saïd Hajji approached the examinations system applied in the Karawiyin, emphasizing three points:

  1. The seasonal interrogations could not allow the passage from a class to a higher one. Only the examinations of the end of the year can decide success or failure and must thus be carefully and seriously prepared by the pupils.

  2. The examinations system in the Karawiyin is limited to only one session which, in the case of failure, requires from the unfortunate candidate to redouble a whole year, by not giving him to try again his chance in a second session.

  3. The examinations are not programmed on a fixed date. The dates are announced only a few days before the day in question. Sometimes, they are even postponed sine die without a valid reason justifying why they were delayed until a later time. The same statement can be made concerning the settlement of the dates for the advertisements of the results apropos of what it just has been said relatively to the dates of the examinations.

These observations prove to which point Saïd Hajji was familiarized with the modern education systems which deny to the examinations the monopol of being the unique measurement rod to check the level of knowledge obtained by the candidates. We can conclude on our side from this matter of fact that our examinations system continues to be characterized with its errors and its lownesses without trying to benefit from the experiments of the modern systems which helped to succeed in discovering the aptitudes of the pupils and to orient them in such a way that they renew with a roaring success.This leads me to wonder until when we will continue in the way of error whereas we took in hand the reins of our destiny since we recovered our independance in 1956.

The decades of the thirties and the forties knew a deep movement of reforms of the teaching methods. The administration of the Karawiyin has been reorganised and adopted a new way of functioning on the orders and under the auspices of His Majesty Mohammed V. The changes which occured within this strongly conservative university are thus to put in the active reforming activities initiated by the King parallel to the political and social combat which he carried out to liberate the country from the condition of dependance and submission to the mode of the direct administration imposed by the colonial power.

During his visit to Fès in 1940, H.M. the King received the "Ulemas" with these words:

"The Karawiyin is free in the field of science, but the educational system must be reexamined. As far as we are concerned, we take into account the future of science more than the individual reasons which could accomodate the persons who are in charge of teaching in this university. We are welcoming any reform, and we must avoid the amalgam by ensuring a clear separation between the persons of the teachers and the scientific matters they are devoted to teach in this university of which we endeavered to improve the conditions of organization and functioning methods in order to allow it to make more progress as in the present time."

The newspaper "Almaghrib" started immediately to give its blessings to the batch of reforms, and to criticize those among its detractors who admitted it neither in principle nor in implementation. In its number 410 of may 15, 1940, it published a comment of its director on the execution modalities of the rogram of reforms in the Karawiyin, supporting the adoption of the new measurements which were taken to avoid the mistakes of the past. The same number reports back extracts of a conference on "the University Karawiyin under the reign of Mohammed V" of an interpreter of the "Directorate of Indigenous Affairs" which has been diffused on the antennas of the Moroccan Broadcasting system. In this issue, we can also read a report on the installation of the first stone of the new Karawiyin library, while number 710 covered the royal visit to this university whose glorious echo was extended by the speech made on this occasion by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince in front of the students of the Coran section. Another article entitled "Memorable day in the history of the reforms in Morocco" gave a report on the audience granted by Mohammed V in the royal palace to the Ulemas of the Karawiyin of all levels, and the order His Majesty gave them to reexamine fundamentally the current educational system as well on the level of the programms as on the concern of the teaching methods. Such a revision was to be achieved clause by clause, with the active involvement of all the participants who should enjoy the complete freedom to express their opinion. At the end of this brain storming, only the proposals considered to be in conformity with the spirit of the desired reforms should be taken into consideration.

The newspaper published in its issue 715 the first part of a note carried by the students of the Karawiyin to the high royal knowledge about the conditions in which the reforms ordered by the Sovereign were executed. This note, of which the second part was published in number 716, contained a detailed criticism of many inaccuracies and negative aspects which were emphasized by the application of the reforms on the practical level, in particular with regard to certain teachers who did not have the necessary competence to exert the matters they were supposed to teach. The note proposed to include certain scientific disciplines in the teaching program, to change some prescribed books and add some others, just like it insisted on the necessity of entrusting for the teaching of each discipline, a teacher presenting necessary competences to fulfill the mission which was assigned to him.

Al Alam - december 4, 1988 - Continuation of the preceding article

The students of the Karawiyin were closely associated to the process of reforms concerning their university and had to take care of their application. Some of their positions were even in disagreement with the decisions taken by the teaching authorities. They diffused a protest against the announcement of the decision taken by the High Council of Teaching to open to the graduates of the French-Moslem schools the access to the higher classes of the Karawiyin. Almaghrib reported both the decision taken by the High Council of Teaching and the students protest in its number 110 of februar 27, 1939.

However, it is not conceivable that such an initiative could express a common will. It was perhaps not submitted to the vote of the students in their entirety, especially when we read some critics touching in the same manner the competence of some members of the teaching corps and the level of the students themselves. Such a behaviour could not reflect the state of maturity of the student class whose positions are generally taken collectively by consensus. The newspaper published in its number 118 an article of one of its readers in which he attacked the students of the Karawiyin on this matter in these terms:

"God! how it is astonishing that the sons of the Karawiyin have no idea about the imaginery of the arab poetry and do not know what this poetry conceals of creative power in its admirable descriptions., its inimitable comparisons and its personifications which reach the apogee of accuracy. Such a speech is completely foreign to their nature because they are not of this world and do not even know the meaning of their existence on earth."

"Almaghrib"published in its number 120 a satirical article of the same correspondant thus entitled: "Of ridiculous in the Karawiyin" in which he wrote in particular:

"Within the Karawiyin coexist odd and ridiculous things which would certainly amuse the children, but would revolt the adults with a healthy spirit."

He understands by this remark that, after the innovations which have just been made and the employment of a certain number of teachers with fixed salaries, the Scientific Council noted the incompetence of these teachers and doubled them with substitutes who were remunerated by deduction from the salaries due to the initial teachers.

After a deep reflection on this kind of criticism, even if the good faith of its author is not to blame, one cannot prevent oneself from raising the exaggeration of such allegations, knowing the struggle led by the university of the Karawiyin against colonialism and the fact that the majority of the nationalist leaders were recruited in its rows and were the product of the culture exempted by its teachers.

Let us return to the second shutter of teaching, namely the public education or the administrative teaching. We note in this matter too that the newspaper "Almaghrib" submits this type of teaching to the same analysis as that which it adopted about the traditional teaching, and this in accordance with the reforming way it preached in its columns. Thus, in his editorial of number 119, of the issue of march 20, 1939, entitled "Can we leave aside the Arab teacher of the Middle East and not call upon him?", Saïd Hajji raised the problematical question of the methods used by the Moroccan teachers in the exemption of their courses, and precised further that:

"the teaching of Arabic in Morocco is not a problem of knowledge, but a question of style and method which are, nowadays, the result of scientific theories and guiding principles concerning the conciseness, the choice of the examples of application and the recourse to methods of approach allowing to draw the attention in order to obtain an optimal participation of the pupils. The teacher is thus in front of a new science raising questions of a methodological nature and, at the same time, a certain number of problems of psychological character. He could not prevail himself of the innovations of modern teaching unless he studies the style and the methods of this new science. Otherwise, it is of our duty, in the expectation of better days, to resign ourselves to call upon the teachers of the Arab countries."

Initiatives in this direction were taken by the nationalist leaders of the northern part of the country placed under the Spanish protectorate. They were concretized by sending student missions to the Middle East and calling upon teachers of Egypt and other Arab countries to teach in the second class degree. The result of this co-operation has been very convincing since the Arab language preserved its vivacity and many works were published in Arabic, in the spirit of the orientations of modern teaching, so that the northern part of Morocco was a real fortress of protection of the Arab language against the penetration of the foreign culture imposed by the colonial power. The inhabitants of this area were thus preserved from the fusion of their moslem moroccan personality in that of the conqueror, as it was the case in the southern part of the country which was placed under the French protectorate, where the phenomenon of fusion was largely spread because of the siege which had encircled the Arab language and the arab speaking population.

As for the Moroccan teacher, he was regarded as an unable being stripped of any personality. The higher education was reserved for the foreigners; the Moroccan was practically not admitted to exceed the limit which was traced to him, except in miraculous and exceptional circumstances. Even the diploma sanctioning the studies end of the second degree which was delivered to the natives did not give access to the university. And that is what Saïd Hajji exposed in his editorial of the number 125 under the title: "Our need to create a Moroccan baccalaureat" at the time when the assembly of the French teachers who had gathered at the seat of the Rabat School Club was held to study the problems of teaching and education.

After having evoked the "studies and researches" carried out by famous professors in the fields of education and teaching, the editorial continued its analysis as follows:

"It is an established fact that since the introduction of modern teaching in Morocco, the Moroccan candidate who finished his studies of the second degree was granted a certificate called "diploma", but it quickly appeared that such a document was not taken into account by the French universities which did not recognize its equivalence with the French "baccalauréat". Worse than that, the administration which founded it in Morocco kept itself from recognizing this equivalence value to a certificate of its own creation. Admittedly, the Morrocans have claimed the application of the French system of the "baccalaureat", and their claim has been taken into consideration, but the different appellation given to the certificate which is delivered to the Moroccan candidate having succeeded to obtain the "diploma" closed all the doors in front of him and prevented him from continuing higher studies in the French universities, which would have largely contributed to offer him the possibility of ambitioning to exert his capabilities in the private sector to which he tends to aspire."

Saïd Hajji continued his analysis in number 126 by specifying that:

"the objective of the creation of a Moroccan baccalaureat is to obtain an equal treatment between Arabic and French as well in the distribution of the courses in the setting of the time table as in the importance attached to the seasonal interrogations and the examinations of the end of the year, without forgetting our worry of proceeding to a meticulous choice of the teaching corps".

The administration did not exceed the tolerated limit by creating in 1912 a "High School of the Language and Arab Letters and the Berber Dialects". The name of the school changed in 1921 and has been replaced by the appellation of "Institute of the High Moroccan Studies" with seat in Rabat. Broad developments were devoted to this institution in a special issue of "Almaghrib" bearing the number 313 where it was question of the objectives related to its creation, as well as to the outlets which it opened in front of the holders of the certificate of end of studies delivered by this new institution.

We have already mentioned the pressures exerted by the censorship on the national press and exposed that the newspaper "Almaghrib" showed a will of dialogue with the Administration of Protectorate by covering its activities in various fields, including that of the activities of the "Directorate of Teaching and Culture", but the practice of an intelligent journalism made it possible to destroy all the alleged achievements which seemed to be reported as belonging to the credit of the Administration by the newspaper. Thus, the special number 393 published statistics emphasizing that the number of the Moroccan pupils registered in the public schools did not exceed 313 boys and 30 girls on a total of 5111 pupils, registered in the schools of the second degree. Consequently, what was published on the achievements of the colonial power in the field of education in Morocco was a lure and pure megalomania.

From the preceding developments, we may conclude that the newspaper "Almaghrib" was constantly interested by all that touched closely or by far the curricular problems, commenting and criticizing sometimes with force sometimes more calmly, according to circumstances', and in a total conformity with the principles of its Director who never discoursed in the vacuum and whose personal feelings never carried him beyond the voice of the reason.