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Education group reports quake damage to 6 boarding houses it runs in Morocco

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, the organization Education For All Morocco reported damage to six boarding houses that it runs for teenage girls in the Atlas Mountains. The boarding houses provide girls with free meals and a place to stay and computers as they attend nearby schools. The group's CEO is Sonia Omar, and she's on the line from London. Welcome to the program.

SONIA OMAR: Hi. Nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Glad you could join us. What are you hearing from your students?

OMAR: Well, the sad thing is that actually hearing from our students is challenging because it was school holidays. So rather than being in our boarding houses, they were all back in their villages, and their villages are exactly at the epicenter of this devastating earthquake. These girls come from rural Berber villages. You know, houses are extremely rudimentary. There's very little infrastructure as it is. And so, you know, we're desperately trying to reach the girls. A lot of the phones are down in these villages. And as your reporter shared, roads are blocked. These villages are very remote. Some of them are not even on a main road. They're off the beaten track.

INSKEEP: I'm also thinking - I'm thinking about the fact that they come to your boarding houses because they come from villages where there are few, if any, schools, which makes me think there must be, even in ordinary times, relatively few public services. Do those villages have resources to manage a crisis like this?

OMAR: They don't have resources. They don't even have secondary schools. They don't have roads. There's very little public transport. So it's - you know, they're already isolated. Communities live in a lot of poverty. That's why our boarding houses run, so that we can ensure girls who most likely miss out on education, if they come from villages like this, can live with us in our boarding houses. We build them next to the local schools. And we have really transformed - you know, the illiteracy rates have gone down thanks to our work with these teenage girls - getting them through school. They go to university. Some of them have even done master's and are planning Ph.D. So in 17 years, we've created a huge transformation, and we're just desperate now that, first of all, our boarding houses have all been damaged in the quake. We don't know when we'll get them up and running again.

And our biggest concern right now is also trying to reach the girls whose villages are inaccessible. And they need supplies, as was shared. You know, they're sleeping outside because they either lost their homes or are too scared to live in what's left. And they need blankets, and they need food, and they need water. And we're trying to raise emergency funds right now for the rebuilding, of course, of our houses 'cause we want to make sure teenage girls are still getting an education. It's so crucial for the entire community that girls are (inaudible). But we also want to get emergency grants to the families that have lost their homes.

INSKEEP: When you say that the boarding houses are damaged, you also talked about rebuilding. In a few seconds, how severe is the damage?

OMAR: It varies, but none of the houses are safe for anyone to live in. And so we, Education For All, will be sending out an assessment (inaudible) find out how to - what will be needed and how we can get them fit for purpose again.

INSKEEP: So...

OMAR: Some walls have caved in, and things are smashed inside, and there - yeah, it's devastating.

INSKEEP: Sonia Omar, CEO of Education For All Morocco. Thanks very much for your time.

OMAR: Thank you so much. * Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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