6 December 2012

Morocco: Nation Delays Tamazight Implementation

Rabat — Amazigh activists are urging Morocco to speed up efforts to implement Tamazight nationwide.

A year and a half after Morocco's amended constitution put Tamazight on equal footing with Arabic, no concrete steps have been taken to treat it as an official language.

Amazigh campaigners have called for the legislative process to be sped up so that this goal can be achieved.

Everyone must now work together to ensure that this language can assume its rightful place in Morocco, Mahjoubi Aherdane, the Amazigh president of the Popular Movement party and a former minister, said on November 21st during a meeting organised by the Chamber of Councillors. He pointed out that the Amazighs were Morocco's first inhabitants.

The rector of Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), Ahmed Boukousa, said that the granting of official status to Amazigh by the Constitution was a historic milestone and that the government must now take the necessary steps to implement this decision.

But El Habib Choubani, the minister in charge of relations with Parliament, warned against haste. He emphasised the need for a multilateral debate so that national experts and the various stakeholders can share their points of view on the question of how to implement Tamazight's official status.

The aim is to arrive at a joint vision which will result in draft laws setting out how Tamazight will be made an official language.

The minister said the government was currently considering the legislative aspects. "The principle of wisdom must serve as a framework for the gradual implementation of Tamazight's official status," he said. Morocco still has a way to go. Tamazight is not yet being taught at all primary schools and certain difficulties have been encountered, such as a shortage of specialist teachers.

The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Lahcen Daoudi, who is himself an Amazigh, says that running language holiday camps would be a more convenient way of helping children to master the language than teaching it.

Daoudi criticised the decision to teach children a "standard language", which differs from the one spoken in homes. He has also criticised the decision to adopt Tifinagh script.

"Even I, as an Amazigh, had difficulty figuring out Tifinagh," he admitted.

The rector of IRCAM disagreed, saying that the standard language was the fruit of significant efforts to reach a compromise between the various dialects of Tamazight spoken in Morocco.

In a bid to overcome these difficulties, the education ministry has launched a study to assess the methods in which Tamazight is taught in primary schools and to identify ways of developing the teaching of the language.

The number of schoolchildren attending classes in the language doubled from 500,000 to 1 million this year, according to official figures released by the education ministry. But that is still insufficient to achieve the goal of a nationwide roll-out.

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