Morocco/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.8 Social cohesion and cultural policies

The Amazigh Issue:

As mentioned earlier, a large proportion of Moroccans consider Amazigh to be their mother tongue.

Government attempts to manage multilingualism have been evident since Arabisation began in the early 1960s. However, managing multilingualism through language education only began at the end of the 20th century, with the endorsement of the National Charter for Education and the ensuing curriculum reforms (May 2000).

This beginning conception of the linguistic file began to clarify tangible concepts related to the Amazigh language, especially with the issuance of the dahir established for the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (17 October 2001). It also showed what followed to make the institute a reality and to begin incorporating Amazigh into schools giving it general practical recognition.

The decree which created the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture has made significant progress.  It  discusses the positive relationship between Amazigh culture and national identity (Paragraph 2 of Decree Rationale). It also states that some of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture’s goals are to facilitate teaching, learning and the spread of Amazigh, ensuring equal opportunities for all Moroccan children to acquire knowledge and help strengthen national cohesion (Paragraph 7 of Decree Rationale).

Among the Institute’s tasks is “to contribute to developing specific programs for basic and continued education for the benefit of the educational staff assigned to teach Amazigh language and officials and employees whose professions entail speaking this language, in addition to other people desiring to learn it” (Paragraph 5 of Article 3).

The decree envisages a special place for Amazigh within Morocco’s socio-linguistic milieu. In addition, the decree develops a policy in which the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture cooperates with the government authorities and concerned institutions to help include Amazigh into the education system and ensure its spread into the social, cultural, and media space at all levels of society (Article 2 of the Decree).

Important progress has been made for Amazigh language incorporation. At higher political levels, a partnership agreement was concluded between the National Education Ministry and the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (23 June, 2003). And the Institute standardised Amazigh dictation and basic vocabulary through the extensive work of Moroccan linguists. It also standardised the language’s basic structure by shifting Amazigh from an oral language to a written one, normalising the varied spoken patterns. In addition, associated pedagogic tools were produced (An approach to Amazigh, Amazigh Standardisation, Teacher/Student Books 1, 2, 3). Over forty books were published by the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture at an impressive pace. This was followed by attempts to integrate Amazigh into schools beginning in September 2003. Integrating Amazigh into school curricula has been attempted through temporary measures and few teachers have actually been recruited.

Some political, economic, and cultural authorities are calling for the fanatic Amazigh people to create a Tamazigh state from Siwa in Egypt to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. These people do not hide their animosity for all that is Arab. 

It seems that this historical fencing is necessary to understand the paths traversed by the Amazigh language since independence, until it gained the status of a national language alongside Arabic.

Chapter published: 05-05-2016