RABAT – A gardening school, the first in Morocco and the southern Mediterranean, is helping young people from poorer areas with less access to education to gain a gardening qualification.
The Bouregreg Med-O-Med Gardening School was created on a landslide where the Oulja dump used to be, an illegal landfill on the eastern outskirts of Sale, which, thanks to the project, has been rehabilitated in recent years.
A total of 90 students, a quarter of them women, are currently studying across the three different grades taught by the school.
Age is no barrier as people up to 40 years old are eligible to attend, but everyone must meet the essential requirement of social risk.
“They are required to know how to read and write, that is to say, they must have a minimum level of fourth-grade education, although during their training they are also given classes in Arabic, French and Spanish,” said the school’s director, Spaniard ToaToran Romero, adding that the school’s good reputation has led to a long waitlist of potential students.
The school ensures free food and transport, thanks in part to a bus company which provides travel to the school free of charge.
Students come mainly from slums or shantytowns on the outskirts of Rabat, Sale, Temara and Kenitra, a stark contrast from the embassies and private mansions where they often carry out gardening work.
“From the first year onwards, we are asked to use of students’ services in the gardens of diplomatic sites, villas and hotels,” says Ines Elexpuru, communications director at the Islamic Culture Foundation (FUNCI), the organization responsible for the project together with the Moroccan Development Agency for the Bouregreg Valley.
Imane, a second-year gardening student, told EFE she has already started earning money by caring for private gardens in upscale neighborhoods.
“It’s a profession that fills me with joy, it’s miraculous to watch how we are bringing plants to life,” said Imane.
In a shady corner of the school Imane and other students, dressed in green uniforms and straw hats with their pens and notebooks in hand, listen carefully to teacher Lucia Aloise explaining how to spray plants using organic methods to keep parasites and pests at bay.
Built on eight hectares some 20 kilometers east of Rabat, the school was made entirely of adobe, traditional sundried clay bricks, which are being used again in modern Moroccan architecture.
The Mangera Yvars architecture studio decorated the building with curved lines and a flat roof, complete with large windows and a solar energy power system.
The building is surrounded by an enormous garden in which typical Mediterranean plants grow, some aromatic like laurel, thyme, rosemary and basil, as well as fruit trees such as pomegranate and citrus.
To guarantee the continuity of the project, Elexpuru explains that several income-generating schemes have been devised within the complex, such as a restaurant recently opened to the public, gardening workshops, professional courses and a shop, still to open, where students will sell plants and seeds.