Magharebia.com: “Moroccan children carve out playgrounds in the streets”


The Moroccan Youth Ministry plans to provide better playground facilities for youngsters, as the lack of parks force many children to amuse themselves on busy arteries.

A Magharebia.com article looks at the lack of spaces available to youth in Casablanca who want to play sports. It focuses on kids in “working class neighborhoods” (no use of the word “slum” here–interesting!), where previously empty lots where kids could play are now being filled in with new construction.

Apparently the “youth and sports ministry” has committed to building 1,000 “social and sports centres” by 2016. I have no idea if this is a reasonable promise or not, but it strikes me as ambitious! One thing to keep in mind, before dismissing this as obviously unrealistic, is that political will in Morocco will take a project very far, very fast.

The main reason I want to share this article is because it hints at some basic assumptions that 1) parallel what we might hear in Chicago; and 2) hint at a certain way of thinking about development in Morocco and Casablanca.

In reading this article I hear a few messages that are worth looking at.

● It is the government’s responsibility to provide recreational and sports centers for working class youth.

Chtibi – a father of two teenagers – said the blame lies with the state, “which has failed to provide suitable areas for them”.

His son Hicham stopped playing ball long enough to talk about the lack of proper places to play. “Why didn’t officials think about including facilities for young people in their development plans, as happens in many countries around the world?” he asked.

● Otherwise youth will turn to crime and extremism. (a Chicago variation on that theme: Otherwise they will turn to crime and drugs.)

[Moroccan sociologist] Khouzama added that community venues are an important tool in the fight against juvenile delinquency and explains that fewer playgrounds can encourage crime or fundamentalism. “For lack of adequate facilities, young people seek to fill the gap by other means, which can set them on the path to crime”, he said.

● Rapid urbanization is bringing down quality of life in Casablanca.

Sociologist Hicham Khouzama said that the problem has existed for a long time, but has worsened in recent years due to the breakneck pace of urbanisation. Many previously empty areas are now taken over by construction.

I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with any of these assumptions, and from a distance I’m not even really equipped to comment on the situation in Casablanca as far as access to space for Moroccan youth.

I’d only like to point them out as a reminder that even the most apolitical article (kids! sports! no brainer!) hints at a system of thinking, in this case about the nature of community planning and development. Given also that Magharebia.com is a website sponsored by the U.S. government, I often wonder about the bias in their articles. If I find coverage of this in another publication I’ll link here.

Pour lire l’article en français:
Les enfants marocains contraints de jouer dans les rues

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Filed under Casablanca, Chicago, Morocco, urban development, Urban Morocco, urbanisation

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