Challenging an exceptional situation in order to achieve the hopes of the people

Education in the Exile

19. september 2016

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Af Nadjem Bashry. Member of the student organisation UESARIO, Western Sahara

Education in Western Sahara is one of the sensitive sectors that the Polisario Front has successfully developed and utilized to educate successive generations that grew up during the Saharawi revolution against the Spanish and the Moroccan colonisation. This is based on the principle that ignorance is the most deadly of all enemies to mankind.

Mohamed Ali is a Saharawi young journalist. He is 27 yoursyears old. He took his primary education in the Saharawi refugee camp oin Dakhla. Then he continued the rest of his studies in Algeria. He volunteered to teach the subject of Mathematics in the intermediate school of June 17th. He believes that is how he can give back and contribute to the education of generations that will carry the torch later on.

Since the beginning of its founding in 1973, the Polisario Front has believed in the importance of education as a means to serve libertarian goals it was established for. That’s why the Front had made it on top of its priorities, relying on free and compulsory education which entails providing all the possibilities necessary despite the lack of support and lack of human resources in that period. This represented a clear challenge for the Front especially that illiteracy rate in the Saharawi society under the Spanish colonisation and before the Moroccan colonisation reached 95%.

Mohamed Ali, while referring to some of the criticisms of the education sector, he still appreciates the significant achievements that have been made.

"The Polisario Front succeeded in distributing its efforts between the raging war with the enemy and the education of successive generations in the exile, achieving an ideal equality between both sexes while maintaining compulsory and free education to ensure qualitative management of institutions. This is something that we are seeing now as a dream coming true. It’s a long-awaited dream by Saharawi people ..."

The Polisario Front, which appeared in May 10th 1973, is considered the only legitimate representative of the Saharawi people who believed in it since its establishment as an organization with an armed wing rejecting the presence of the Spanish colonisation and further developing the liberal political thought which rejected the Moroccan colonial presence later on.


How to build education

During the sessions of The First Forum for the Education and Discipline in 31.12.1975, the discussion was focused on the fundamental question of ‘how to build education in such "imposed unacceptable" circumstances. The forum lasted for two days and was under the slogan "Building a national culture, stemming from the reality of our people aiming to change it". The forum put forward a set of goals to be achieved. The primary objectives were to ensure the enrolment of all school-aged pupils, providing teachers in quantity and not in quality, as well as the necessary possibilities needed for education, and emphasising the importance of creating a comprehensive national curricula of education.

During the war waged against the Moroccan kingdom by the Polisario Front as the legitimate and the sole representative of the Saharawi people; which had lasted 16 years and whose first part ended with the signing of a peace agreement with Mauritania in 1978. And a ceasefire with the Kingdom of Morocco in 1991, this period is considered by a group of cadres from the Saharawi Ministry of Education as the most productive period in the history of the educational system, which was still starting at the time. The central committee emerging from The First Forum for Education and Discipline has played an important role in the liberation of citizens from the enmity of ignorance and illiteracy before the liberation of the country from the colonisers.

In this period, education was one of the fastest growing sectors as a result of the novice teachers believing in volunteering as a fundamental pillar upon which the Front was built. They received encouragement and appreciation as the elite that had shouldered the responsibility to enlighten the society, in addition to the contribution of the new curriculum which has given a special status to teacher and educators. They were received with the utmost respect and appreciation even outside the scope of the educational system, as well as the contribution of the Sahrawi families that have played a complementary role in the development of the importance of education and discipline for younger generations.

Since 1976, and through the 80s and 90s, the Saharawi institutions were mostly run by self-taught people who had great experiences away from academic education. And despite of that, they have achieved a remarkable success in institution-building.

However, the situation now is different as a result of those efforts made by the Polisario Front in its public policies through the Education and the Discipline system.

Lamina Fluat is a university graduate qualified in law, a former student activist and a Member of the National Parliament. She says "Compared to the past years, unlike the period of the establishment of the educational system, we can very clearly observe and see how those mighty efforts have reflected on various sectors and institutions now run and administrated by generations who have undergone a very high education and academic formation that qualified management of great quality in various aspects. It is currently estimated that 89 percent of employment in the institutions is from this category."

Despite the success of the Saharawi Education and Discipline institution by achieving the goal set in advance, the goal behind those efforts is the contribution to the liberation of the occupied homeland, which still suffers under occupation for more than forty years. However, those efforts have increased the capabilities of the Saharawi human capital in preparation for the independence of the country.


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