Distinguished guests

January 21, 2017

Soaking wet and shivering from the cold the parents of the girls of Riad Moustaqbel come trickling in. It isn’t the best of days to travel from the isolated mountain villages, where it freezes and snows, to a rainy Marrakech. It was a long trip, but they are clearly happy to be here.

‘Dad, give me your wet coat’, says Zineb Bidari to her father. A moment later they are involved in a deep conversation about the latest developments at home and in the village Ouirgane where Zinebs family lives. Every father, mother, sister or brother that enters the house is welcomed in a similar loving way.

In the hour before their arrival Riad Moustaqbel is already a veritable hive of activity. While Soukaina and Sanae cut the cake they baked yesterday, Zahira takes a quick glance in the mirror to make sure her headscarf is still on straight. Zahra and Hayat prepare a presentation about their first months in Riad Moustaqbel, while tutor and cook Malika finishes preparing lunch and tutor Omama binds together the contracts that will be signed today by the young students and their parents.

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One of the goals of this Family Meeting is the setting of House Rules and a discussion about shared responsibilities. But besides the formalities it is time for the families to see where their girls have been studying hard all that time. The riad may still be in renovation, but Riad Moustaqbel is already very much alive, with ten girls living together, sharing two bedrooms and hundreds of new experiences and stories.

‘Marhaban bikoum.’ After a word of welcome by Hanneke Ouwehand-Van Hooff, she tells the parents why she initiated Riad Moustaqbel: the dreams the girls shared with her during their years in high school. ‘Your daughters want to become engineers, sociologists and lawyers. A high school diploma won’t get them there.’

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For their dreams to become reality, a small miracle was necessary. Many of their peers in the villages in the mountainous area surrounding Marrakech are financially disadvantaged and will never get a chance to get a university degree, let alone a succesful career. ‘We are here to help your daughters reach their goals, but we need your contribution.’

The new House Rules and the shared responsibilities that are presented by the tutors are met with agreement. ‘Hear, hear’, the parents clearly understand the difficult task their daughters are facing, and they are willing to play their part. After signing the contracts and a presentation about the first months at Riad Moustaqbel, lunch is served. Zahira has good news: it has stopped raining. ‘The sun is shining bright.’

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