Children in Dreams of their Future Competences

A project by Lillehammer University College, Norway

Project summary and preliminary results

The project Children in dreams of their future competences started in Ait Abdi in 2009 as a small private initiative for the financing of necessary repairmen’s of the roof, walls and windows in the local school of Ait Abdi in the high Atlas of Morocco. In the beginning the project collaborated with Tidoukla, the local organization for Ait Abdi. Soon the project expanded and became an umbrella project for research-, cultural- and developmental activities involving Norwegian institutions such as the Lillehammer University College (now named Norway Inland University of Applied sciences), The Norwegian Academy of Music and Morroccan institutions such as University of Cady Ayyad in Marrakech, Espace Provincial des Associations de developpement d´Alhaouz, the Regional Delegation of Education in Alhaouz and the Governor and his administration of the province Alhaouz.

After 9 years, some of the project´s activities are now completed, while some will be completed soon. However, the project has not only launched activities having a time table for starting and ending points. It has also initiated chain-like developmental and cultural processes which continue more or less “by them self” as rings on the water.  To a certain degree we are thus talking about a “never-ending-project”. At one point or another, these type of never-ending-projects needs a preliminary summing up and evaluation.

The project has now reached this point.  On Tuesday 27th of March 2018 this point was marked by a special program to make a preliminary summing up and evaluation of the project. The  object was  to learn from the completed project-activities as well as from the processes which are still going on. After a short presentation of the aim of the project, the project staff, collaborative partners and financial resources  sources, the following pages cover a summary of project activities and some preliminary results.

Major aim of the umbrella project

The umbrella project Children in dreams of their future competencies is dedicated to, and actively involves, the inhabitants in Ait Abdi, a small Berber village in the province of Alhaouz located in the High Atlas in Morocco. Under the leadership of the Research Centre for Child and Youth Competence Development at Lillehammer University College in  Norway, a lot of project activities and mini-projects has been launched in the period from 2009 until today.

The major aim is two-folded:

  • Development: To support the development of life conditions and competences of strategical importance for welfare and wellbeing of children, young people and their families in Ait Abdi.
  • Research: To use research as a strategical tool in supporting the developmental processes in Ait Abdi, and give inspiration to similar processes in other local villages in Al Haouz based on our practical and scientific results.

Project staff

From 2009 until today, there has been different kind of activities on different arenas in collaboration with different actors in different periods of time.  The following persons has been involved as a member of the project staff in different activities during different periods:

  • Project leader, professor Pär Nygren, Research Centre for Child and Youth Competence Development, Lillehammer University College, Norway (2009 – 2018)
  • Research assistant Omar Aatabi, Marrakech and Ait Abdi (2009-2018)
  • Professor Steinar Ofsdal, The Norwegian Academy of Music (2012 – 2018)
  • Danish photographer Anne-Li Engström (2012 – 2015)
  • Assistant professor Bjarne Øvrelid, Lillehammer University College (2012 – 2016)
  • Assistant professor Frank Bruun, Lillehammer University College (2012 – 2016)
  • P.D.-student Nisrine Lmariouh, Lillehammer University College/Cady Ayyad University (2013-2018)

Collaborative partners

With Lillehammer University College as the continuous institutional base for the project, the project staff has been dependent on and collaborating with different partners during different periods such as:

  • The children, young people and their parents and grandparents in Ait Abdi (2009 – 2018)
  • Tidoukla, (local association for the inhabitants in Ait Abdi) (2009 – 2018)
  • Private donators from Sweden, Norway and Denmark in a supportive network (2009 – 2018)
  • CAS Welfare Project, IB Diploma Programme at Katedralskolan in Lund, Sweden (2012 – 2015)
  • Espace Provincial des Associations de developpement d´Alhaouz (2012 – 2018)
  • The Norwegian Academy of Music (2012 – 2018)
  • Coworkers at University of Cady Ayyad in Marrakech (2012 – 2015)
  • Community of Tazart (2012 – 2018)
  • Regional and local school administrations in the province of Alhaouz (2012 – 2018)
  • The local school and its teachers in Ait Abdi and Oum Aabed  (2013 – 2017)
  • The Governor and the administration of the province of Alhaouz (2013 – 2018)
  • The Norwegian ambassador to Morocco (2014 – 2018)
  • The Moroccan ambassador to Norway (2014 – 2018)

Financial resources

  • Lillehammer University College has been responsible for the largest part of the financing of the staff and travel expenses.
  • The Norwegian Academy of Music has also contributed in the financing of one of the projects
  • Scandinavian private donators have provided money for material resources (water-pump to the village, repairing of the school building, Ipads to the school etc).
  • The Governor and the administration of Alhaouz has also supported the project financially, e.g. by funding  conferences and the development of the infrastructure of Ait Abdi (new road etc).

Overview of the activities under the umbrella project

It all started in 2009 as a private initiative to support the people in Ait Abdi in general, and the school and the school children especially.

A lot of ideas and initiatives has been launched and tried out during the last nine years. Not all of them survived the confrontation with the practical realities. The following overview cover the ideas, initiatives and activities which has proven to have a minimum of sustainability over time. The following chronological overview shows how the project developed over time – from a small private initiative for material support to a combination of action research, cultural exchange and developmental support to the children and families of Ait Abdi:

  • 2009-2010: Private donations for renovation of the school buildings
  • 2010-2011: Pilot project focusing on the relation between tradition and modernity in Ait Abdi
  • 2011-2013: Establishment of an institutional-based Norwegian-Moroccan collaboration
  • 2012: Private donations: water to all households and the building of a school toilet and walls around the schoolyard
  • 2012 – 2018: Cultural exchange, cultural identity and action research for competence development
    • The “Norwegian-Berber Music-project” (2012-2018)
    • The Photo-book-project (2013-2015)
    • The socio-biographic project (2015 – 2018)
    • The iPad-project (2014-2016)
    • The collective homework project (2014-2016)
    • The roleplay project (2014-2016)

2009-2010: Private donations for renovation of the school buildings

  • Connect electricity to the two school buildings
  • New roofs on the two school buildings
  • Painting of all walls outside and inside the two school buildings
  • New windows in both classrooms

2010-2011: Pilot project focusing on the relation between tradition and modernity in Ait Abdi

  • Taking the school children on a three days school excursion to Marrakech with pre- and post interviews
  • Interviews with children, teachers, parents and grandparents about the relation between tradition and modernity in everyday life

2011-2013: Establishment of an institutional-based Norwegian-Moroccan collaboration

  • The research group at Lillehammer University College in Lillehammer invites researchers at University of Cady Ayyad to a research seminar about the need for development and research in the Atlas Mountains.(2011)
  • A Partnership agreement was signed by the president of University of Cadi Ayyad, Marrakech and the rector of  Lillehammer University College. (2011)
  • With the support from the Governor in Alhaouz, the research group at Cady Ayyad invites the Norwegian research group to a Conference  in Tahanaut and Marrakech where the need for development and research in the Atlas Mountains was addressed (2012)
  • As a part of the collaboration between the research groups at Cady Ayyad University and Lillehammer University College, Lillehammer University invited students from Cady Ayyad to join the master program and phd-program at Lillehammer University College. (2012)
  • An agreement on collaboration on a double degree PhD-program was signed by the president of Cady Ayyad and the rector of Lillehammer University College (2013)
  • The first Norwegian financed PhD-scholarship was offered to a masterstudent from Cady Ayyad starting with her PhD-project in as a part of the project Children in dreams of their future competences in Ait Abdi (2013).

2012:  Private donations: water to all households and the building of a school toilet and walls around the schoolyard

The members in the Scandinavian private network for support to Ait Abdi raised the necessary money:

  • to buy a big water pump, enabling the people in Ait Abdi to have fresh water in every household
  • to build a toilet at the school with water for handwashing
  • to build walls around the school yard to keep animals outside

2012 – 2018:  Cultural exchange, cultural identity and actions research for competence development

After the pilot project and the preparations during 2010 – 2012, the more formal project activities in Ait Abdi started and was organized in five mini-projects under two main themes:

  • Cultural exchange, cultural identity and social change
    • The “Norwegian-Berber Music-project” (2012-2018)
    • The Photo-book-project (2013-2015)
    • The socio-biographic project (2015 – 2018)
  • Action research for competence development
    • The iPad-project (2014-2016)
    • The collective homework project (2014-2016)
    • The roleplay project (2014-2016)

The Governor in Alhaouz signed a permission for all these projects. This was followed by a Collaboration agreement  signed by Tidoukla Association de Ait Abdi, L´espace Associatif D´Alhaouz and Lillehammer University College. Furthermore, these six projects were supported by the organization “Friends of Ait Abdi”, which was formally established 29.08.2014 in Norway.

The six mini-projects under the two main themes are shortly presented below.

Cultural exchange, cultural identity and social change

  • The “Norwegian-Berber Music-project” Young people´s cultural practices and identities in the tension between tradition and modernity is a cultural exchange project with the focus on Norwegian and Berber folklore music. The aim is to support the possibilities for young musicians from Norway and Alhaouz to learn from each other concerning how to preserve and strengthen traditional values and culture in a rapid changing society. The project is led by professor Steinar Ofsdal from the Norwegian Academy of Music assisted by Mr. Omar Aatabi. In the period from 2012 until today he has brought young Norwegian musicians to Alhaouz and Ait Abdi six times. During these visits he has involved children from Ait Abdi, young people from Alhaouz and the Norwegian students in joint musical activities and concerts to learn from each other and strengthen their cultural identities and the folklore music traditions in both countries. (2012-2018)
  • The Photo-book project: “Sensations of a Berber village. – Everyday life in Ait Abdi” is a book published by professor Pär Nygren and the Danish photographer Anne-Li Engström. The book, written in English and Arabic, uses photographs documenting the everyday life of the inhabitants in Ait Abdi supplied with quotes from the interviews in the pilot project (see above). One of the objects was to document the everyday culture of the inhabitants of the village beyond what can be obtained through written language. The income from selling the book in Morocco and elsewhere (which by now has reached over 40.000 dirham)  is so far unabridged dedicated to the construction of a community house center in the village, with spaces for library, the local association of the village (for the time being Tidoukla) and rooms for meetings and cooperation between parents and the local school teachers.  The future income from the book shall be used to build a local bridge over the river in the village and for building up an annual fund for “startup grants” for young students from Ait Abdi who wants to study at the University.  The local association of the village, Tidoukla, is responsible for using the money in accordance with the stated purposes.
  • The socio-biographic project “A socio-cultural situated biography of a Moroccan”  is an ongoing book project with Pär Nygren and Omar Aatabi as co-authors.   The objective of this study is to reconstruct the personal life history of a man, comparatively paralleled by the life histories of his parents and sister and brothers, in order to understand important aspects of the socio-cultural transition of the Moroccan society in the period 1915-2016. The focus is on how the tension between tradition and modernity is manifested and embodied in the life trajectories of persons in a small Berber village such as Ait Abdi. Interviews and historical studies are the main methods used.

Action Research for Competence Development

The field work in the three action research projects has been carried out by Nisrine Lmariouh as a PhD-student after she was granted a Norwegian scholarship (2014-2016). Right now, she is in Lillehammer finishing her PhD-dissertation about these three projects.

The general aim for these action research projects was:
To support the school children in Ait Abdi  in developing new practices and competences for their future life in areas prioritized by themselves and their parents .

The children who participated in the action research projects were who attended school level 3-6 in the primary school of Ait Abdi. Altogether 26 children have been involved in the different activities. In order to find out which areas we should focus on interviews were conducted with the school children, their parents and teachers. After analyzing the results and tried out activities on various areas,  the mentioned three projects were prioritized. The activities in these projects can shortly be summarized in the following way:

The Ipad-project

In 2014  we organized a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for buying Ipads to the children attending school level 3-6 in the primary school of Ait Abdi.  In collaboration with the school teacher, a model for using Ipad as a supplementary pedagogical tool was developed and tried out for one year.

Objective

To support the children at school level 3-6 in developing new practices and competences for their future life in different areas with the help of new information technology.

This main objective can be divided into the following goals:

  1. To prepare the children for, and to make them able to use, new information technology by introducing the use of Ipad in school.
  2. To promote children´s competences in collaborating, sharing and communicating with each other.
  3. To enhance the children’s learning of algebra with the help of the Dragon box app in Ipad as a supplement to the ordinary training in algebra.
  4. To promote the children´s competences in using new information technology (iPad) when learning other subjects than algebra, for example Islam, Arabic, French, English, geography, biology etc.

Practice

After introducing the Ipads, the teacher integrated the use of Ipads in her teaching for one year. In order to promote collaboration and development of social competences,  two children were assigned to each Ipad in order to share it .

The collective homework project

The model for collective homework was developed and tried out for the primary school children in the school of Ait Abdi at school level 3-6.

Objective

  • To create new opportunities for the children to help each other with homework to compensate for the illiterate parent’s lack of competences in this area.
  • To support the children’s development of their collaborative social competences in learning practices.

Practice

Through the action research activities 3 self-administered groups of children were established where older children helped the younger ones when doing their school homework.

The roleplay project

The model for roleplay as a tool in developing the relations between children and their parents was developed and tried out for the primary school children in the school of Ait Abdi at school level 3-6.  This mini-project involved 16 children.

Objective

Without reducing their respect for their parents, the children shall try to develop their relations to their parents in order to:

  • Reduce distance
  • Create more trust both ways
  • Establish a freer communication
  • Reduce lies on both sides

Practice

With the help of an instructor the children learned to create and play role plays (like a theater), where they act as parents and children. The plays should reflect situations in which the relations between parent and child is experienced as problematic for the child in one way or the other.  Each theme for a role play should be developed and played in two versions: one version where the behavior of the parents is problematic from the children´s perspective and one version where the children show how the parents behave in a way that the children would like them to behave.  After the children have developed these type of role plays and trained together, their parents are invited to “the children´s theater”. After having played the two versions of each theme/situation, there is a discussion led by the instructor where both the children and the parents participate. In this discussion, the goal is that parents and children should come to an agreement on how the relations and behavior should be in the actual situations. Focus in these discussions should be on the two questions: 1) How should the children change their behavior? and 2) How should the parents change their behavior?

Scientific methods used in the action research projects

Various methods (statistics of changes of the students marks in algebra over time, systematic observations over time of the children´s behavior by the teacher, questionnaires, interviews etc.) were used to assess changes in the children´s competence development as a result of the activities in the three projects .

The whole umbrella project is focused on support and development.  From this point of view research is only a tool for development and change. The results of our research on the results from the project activities that will be presented here, is only a preliminary and rough summing up. Reports of  the results in a stricter scientific way will be submitted in traditional academic publications.

Evaluation and preliminary results

Some of the activities have contributed to development and changes in more or less direct ways. Let us call them action-oriented activities. Other activities served as necessary preconditions for these action-oriented activities. These activities are called framing-oriented activities since they created the frames and premises for the action-oriented activities.  The activities described above under the two headings “Pilot project focusing on the relation between tradition and modernity in Ait Abdi” and “Establishment of an institutional-based Norwegian-Moroccan collaboration” are examples of framing-oriented activities. The direct and indirect results from the action-oriented activities are below summarized under the following four headings:

  • Development of material life conditions
  • Development of physical and psychological health
  • Development of cultural and cross-cultural identities
  • Competence development

Development of material life conditions

  • For the school children in Ait Abdi:
    • Necessary restoration of the school: new roof, windows, toilets with water for washing hands, wall around the schoolyard and access to electricity for heating and light
    • New computer for the school teacher and digital pedagogical tools for the future for the school children
  • For all families in Ait Abdi:
    • Fresh water in tubes to all households in the village
    • A new community house center in the village, with spaces for library, the local association of the village (for the time being Tidoukla) and rooms for meetings and cooperation between parents and the local school teachers.

Development of physical and mental health

  • Physical health:
    • Reduced risks for diseases for everybody in Ait Abdi as a result from the access to fresh water in all households and in the school toilets
  • Mental health:
    • Development of healthy relations between the children and their parents in Ait Abdi as a result of the role play project.
    • Reduced mental health problem among the children in Ait Abdi when they grow up.

Development of cultural and cross-cultural identities

  • The strengthen of cultural identities as Berbers and experience of pride as a result of the Photobook
  • The experience of the acknowledgment from people from other cultures among all inhabitants in Ait Abdi as a result of the Photobook
  • The strengthen of the children´s cultural identities as a result from the fact that they help the Norwegian music students to learn the Berber folklore music traditions by participating in the “Norwegian-Berber Music-project”
  • The children´s development of cross-cultural identities and the experience of learning from other young people from other cultures as a result of:
    • The joint musical activities and concerts organized by the “Norwegian-Berber Music-project”
    • The meeting with a lot of visitors from Scandinavian countries who are interested in the umbrella project in general

Competence development

In general, we have indications that the Norwegian-Berber Music-project and three action research projects  (Ipad project, Collective homework project and roleplay project) promoted a development of the following competences among the school children in Ait Abdi:

  • Cross-cultural competence: Knowledge of the similarities and differences between Scandinavian folklore music and Berber folklore music.
  • Digital competences: The Ipad project promoted the development of new digital competences relevant for their future life in different areas.
  • Competences in math in general and algebra especially: The use of the app for learning algebra in the Ipad-project promoted the development of logical thinking in general and increased skills in math especially: A statistical analysis of the results of a comparison mean of marks in mathematics between Ait Abdi-children in the Ipad-project with children in a control school for one year (June 2014 – June 2015) shows that the mean for Ait Abdi-children increased from 5.75 to 6.0882 during the test period, while it dropped slightly for children in the control school from 5.35 to 5.33.
  • Collaborative social competence: The participation in the Ipad-project, Homework-project and roleplay project promoted the children’s development of their collaborative social competences in learning practices.
  • Development of motivation and behavior relevant for school success: The combined effect of participation in the Ipad-project, Homework-project and roleplay project is clear on many areas. The analyses of the results on a 10-point scale inventory shows that the Ait Abdi children showed a statistical significant increase in the scores on each one of the following eight motivational and behavioral variables in the period between September 2014 and June 2015:
    • Being on time when the class start and after breaks
    • Skills in conflict-solving
    • Creative thinking
    • Motivation and discipline in doing homework
    • Collaboration with other children in the mathematic classes
    • General collaboration with other children in the class
    • Motivation in learning math
    • General motivation for school work

There are no significant differences between boys and girls.

The development over time for each of the 8 areas can be seen in the graph below.

Graf

One comment on “Project summary and preliminary results

  1. Pingback: On this page we will keep you posted! | Children in Dreams of their Future Competences

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