Real Leaders

The Business of Education in Morocco

Education is a real issue in Morocco. Around 40 percent of the population is illiterate – not a great scenario for parents wanting to help with their kids education.

Each year, the birth rate adds 640,000 more kids to the system while 380,000 leave school before completing high school. These kids are very often exposed to social exclusion, unemployment and illegal immigration to Europe.

The Sanady Foundation has a solution – for US$260 per child per year. Kacem Bennani-Smires is chairman and CEO of Delassus, a leading grower and exporter of fruit and vegetables in Morocco and he’s developed a unique plan to get companies to fund the education of their employees kids. Morocco is ranked 11th out of 14 countries in the MENA region for educational outcomes (access, equity, efficiency, quality) according to a recent report from the World Bank. Out of 100 students enrolled in primary only 12 will ever get their baccalaureate.

In a society that finds it difficult to implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)successfully, Bennani-Smires came up with a project that kept the funding and target group close: companies that fund the education of their employees’ children. The Sanady Foundation offers free tutoring to public school kids after school, with each class funded by the respective companies that employ their parents.

The foundation helps kids achieve at school and motivates them to complete high school and aims to create an equal opportunity for public school kids, including gender parity. The foundation started with 57 kids in a citrus packhouse in Agadir in 2008 and now supports close to 3,000 kids in five cities across the country. In Morocco, there are no retirement homes, as it’s taken for granted by parents that their kids will take care of them in old age. For these employees, their only hope for a better future is if their kids succeed through studying and becoming something in life.

The first step in achieving this is to obtain their high school diplomas, before going on to do their higher education. In addition to raising the quality of education, the employees are comforted by the fact that Sanady can track their children’s progress when they have no ability to do so, intellectually or financially. The program has shown companies that CSR programs can make sense and also help resolve many of the urgent social needs in Morocco.

It gives companies a simple and tangible method of implementing CSR, without mobilizing extra human resources, as the program is taken care of by the Sanady Foundation, that organizes the classes, does follow-up and reporting. From Bennani-Smires’ own company, Delassus, where the program started, they now have 36 participating companies with the primary goal of acting out their CSR strategies and relying on Sanady to help them.

One of the more important social impacts of the program is that kids aren’t abandoning school. This makes a real difference in Morocco where the dropout rate is extremely high and kids become a problem in society for decades. Schooled kids feel better about school, more confident about themselves and are better prepared to continue with studies after school.

Sanady kids have a better chance to succeed in a career beyond school and thereby offering a better future for their parents too.

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