EBRD project delivers tools for distance learning in Morocco

Covid-19 caused unprecedented disruption to schools in Morocco and teachers had to adjust quickly as distance learning became the dominant method

  
When tech entrepreneur Hicham Saadi developed an app in Morocco to improve communication and efficiencies in schools, he never imagined it would be hailed as a vital learning tool during a global pandemic.
 
The lessons learned over the past nine months have taken the app to a new level, increasing its functionality and potential for a wider national rollout.

The EBRD, with support from the EU’s Neighbourhood Investment Platform, helped Hicham deliver the first version of his app, LAXIAL, to Anglo-Moroccan School – a private mixed school in Tangier – in late 2019. The app is Hicham’s solution to the challenges of communication and organisation within schools.

Hicham’s objective was to reduce paperwork and bureaucracy by digitalising day-to-day operations through software, connecting students, parents, teachers and administrators to inform them in real-time about their matters of concern. “I was always interested in the education sector and had worked on several educational research projects before LAXIAL,” says Hicham. The idea for the app came from observing communication and administration in schools and identifying gaps in these interactions and processes.

Adaptation

In response to the abruptness of the global coronavirus pandemic and ensuing countrywide lockdown, Hicham added new capabilities to LAXIAL, including audio and video lectures and a complete module of online exams to make distance learning more accessible.

Head teacher Jawad Elhadri says, “LAXIAL has been of great use, particularly during the coronavirus crisis and period of containment. It has allowed the school to stay operational remotely and its credibility is widely acknowledged by parents.”

The school had to increase its server capacity to cope with the increased demands of the app, which now serves thousands of users, including parents, students, teachers and administrators.

A wider context

Covid-19 caused unprecedented disruption to schools in Morocco and teachers had to adjust quickly as distance learning became the dominant method for delivering education. Teacher Mrs Ezzouhri recalls that the sudden changes required “a period of psychological and technological adaptation among teaching staff”.

Student Zaineb Sarghini says, “The distance courses were difficult at the beginning psychologically because we had less supervision. However, LAXIAL has been of great use as all the data is presented in one place with ease. What I miss the most, though, is the interaction with my classmates and the rhythm imposed by the teachers.”

The absence of face-to-face interaction during lockdown affected concentration and motivation among students and there is a strong correlation between the suspension of schools and increasing anxiety and stress among the young. A World Health Organisation report argues that school offers stability and security, especially to vulnerable children, and its absence can increase any existing sense of alienation. This has been compounded by the additional stresses and unknowns brought on by the pandemic, leading to a rise in cases of anxiety in those affected.

This is an area where teachers and parents share a responsibility to identify and support those who going through difficulties and try to make online classes as collaborative and dynamic as possible. Teacher Mrs Alaoui says, “LAXIAL has helped to maintain this essential link between teachers and students. I was impressed with the ability to share homework, exams and other important documents electronically with students, while keeping parents informed.”

Looking forward

National lockdowns have temporarily upended how children are taught, forcing schools to confront the reality that digitalisation ought to be a strategic priority. The EBRD, with support from the EU, has helped deliver that at Anglo-Moroccan School with this project.

LAXIAL is now ready for a wider national rollout. Its introduction will remove many of the obstacles imposed by remote schooling and help safeguard a digital future when normality is restored.

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