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Mouhcine Camel, this teacher who made of Essaouira’s streets an «English classroom»

In 2017, Mouhcine Camel launched a free initiative in one of the old alleys of the city of Essaouira. His project aims to teach languages, especially English, to young people.

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Mouhcine Camel with his students in one Essaouira's neighborhoods. / DR

«It is a free yet beneficial project», said Safi-native Mouhcine Camel, when describing the initiative he launched in Essaouira to teach languages, especially English.

His project dubbed «English street class» was his childhood dream. A dream that came true during the last couple of years. «When I was a kid, I used to have kids in my neighborhood gather around me and I used to play the role of a ‘street’ teacher», he told Yabiladi.

But his relationship with languages, especially the English language, started by sheer chance, since he holds a bachelor degree in chemistry.

«In 2010, I moved to Essaouira to catch up on some humanitarian works. At the time, I met with foreign activists who spoke English, everyone was talking English to them, expect me. That made me feel kind of frustrated and ashamed».

Mouhcine Camel

In an attempt to overcome these feelings, Mouhcine started taking English classes online, listening to songs in English and trying to translate them. But what made him master the language the most was his constant interactions with English-speaking foreigners.

Learning languages outside school

Mouhcine, who is 29 now, used to spend most of his time traveling from Essaouira to Safi for work. But in 2016, he decided to settle down in the city formerly known as Mogador. «I got really sick at some point and I decided that I had to go to a less polluted city», he said, adding that because of his work in Essaouira and friends he already had there he opted for it.

In summer 2017, five Spanish volunteers were set to participate to a children’s summer camp in the city. However, things took a different turn when the camp’s organizers refused to receive them. Mouhcine was in a bad situation and he had to act on it.

To overcome this problem, the young man launched an initiative he called «English street class». «The volunteers ended up coming to Essaouira but instead of participating to the summer camp, I asked them to offer language classes for free and they accepted», he recalled.

The project was in partnership with the «Harouni Association for Development and Solidarity», located in the city’s ancient Jewish quarter, where Mouhcine’s language classes take place now.

The initiative started by attracting the neighborhood’s kids, whose parents were very enthusiastic about the idea. And although Mouhcine did not have, at the time, the needed supplies and equipment to teach, he asked his students to bring chairs from their houses and brought an old blackboard that he hung on the wall after he washed it.

«We offered language classes as the Spanish volunteers were fluent in several other languages, not only Spanish. I took care of the English bit and kept doing that for two consecutive months», he told Yabiladi.

But after the volunteers returned to their country, Mouhcine found himself alone, and the students stopped attending the classes «like nothing happened». He did not stand idly by and decided to try again, after a break of nearly two months.

In October 2017, Mouhcine’s voluntary project was relaunched again, with many students from different parts of the city attending his classes. «Sometimes, we had so many people attending that some were forced to stand because we did not have enough chairs», he recalled.

Shortly afterwards, and thanks to the reputation of the initiative, Mouhcine was able to purchase a new blackboard and a sufficient number of chairs, with the help of some donors.

Thanks to his work with several NGOs, including American agency Peace Corps, Mouhcine was able to acquire communication methods that he uses with his students. «I try to get closer to the youth, I try to befriend them, in order to make them love the language and fill their spare time with things that are useful. This is the main goal of the initiative», he stressed.

English and communation classes

Mouhcine’s program, or curriculum, includes «English and communication lessons, as well as games that would allow the beneficiaries to interact with tourists visiting Essaouira».

The program also includes grammar classes offered by foriegn volunteers to his students to make them master the language.

«I meet these volunteers in the streets of the city or in its cafes and sometimes they stumble upon our Facebook page by chance and ask to take part in the initiative during their time in Essaouira. I welcome the idea because that helps me develop and expand my project even more. Currently 200 students attend my classes and that is not a small number».

Mouhcine Camel

Mouhcine made of the streets of Essaouira a classroom for his students because people are «mostly at ease when they are outside more than at home or in schools». «My goal is to, of course, teach them the language, but I also want to create a space that makes people feel at ease», he added. «Our classes start at 8 pm from Monday to Friday and the morning on Sunday for younger students», he stressed, adding that «they use street light».   

When Mouhcine is not around, as he works a primary school teacher near Essaouira, he asks volunteers to take his place. Foreign volunteers also benefit from Mouhcine’s street classes, as they also learn Darija from April to the end of the summer every year.

Regarding whether Mouhcine plans to convert his project into a real school and as for money he said, «I have never and will never think of that, my goals are not to financially benefit from this. The initiative started in the streets for free and will remain in the streets for free».

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