Responsible citizens are required to make thoughtful decisions about their country’s issues and leadership, and their future as well as the future of their communities. They can only do so if they are responsibly well-informed.
Civic education is very much effective in making people sensitive to their rights and duties promoting their participation in democratic and development processes. Citizens’ participation in the public affairs and the society’s issues are critical to the establishment of a healthy governance system, moreover, this participation leads to civic engagement.
In order that people develop confidence to participate and get engaged in civic life, they have to be informed about everything related to local and national politics. In addition, being informed about their society’s situation in almost every possible aspect is of crucial importance. Information here is a key factor that enables to develop the ability to explain, analyze, evaluate and defend a position.
The role of media is not limited to making people aware of their duties and rights; it is a shaper of the public opinion as well. This opinion ought to be taken into consideration in a responsible democratic environment. Media plays an important data intermediary, by channeling in the information flows between the public, NGO’s, government, private sector and other institutions. The media role, then, is not less than the function of the family and the school in civic education.
Moroccan press and media in general provides a great deal of information to the Moroccan citizens to be aware and concerned with issues and developments around them, to ensure that the political projects are being done under their names, and that their natural resources are properly being managed for their interest.
In Morocco, the core of civic education is based on raising an honest, tolerant patriotic citizen, who believes in the Islamic values, who adheres to the political system by respecting the constitutional monarchy, and other political institutions, a citizen willing to participate in public affairs and contribute to the society. Nowadays, many NGO’s and government organizations are involved in the dynamic of making people aware of their civic duties as part of their priorities, new topics have been added to the traditional ones like respect of the environment, religious tolerance, gender equality and the like. Accordingly, Morocco is getting aware of its connection to the values of humanity in the rest of the world, thus the new topics respond to the new cultural and social context of Moroccans who are nowadays part of the human legacy in this era’s globalized world.
In order to have a closer look at the civic education’s aim in Morocco, at least its official definition, scrutinizing civic and citizenship education school manuals or textbooks (especially junior high schools) will enable us to have a clear vision.
The content of citizenship courses contains three main parts. The first part covers concepts related to human rights in their broadest sense. Students are exposed to concepts such as dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, solidarity and peace. In the second part, students are exposed to the major apparatus and symbols of the Moroccan state, including the national anthem, the geographical borders, the constitution and the political system, the symbols of unity of the kingdom. The third part mainly deals with civil and political rights and responsibilities of Moroccans as active citizens. The majority of these values are based on our religious beliefs and on the constitutional monarchy, in addition to the universal declaration of human rights.
Hence, civic education in Morocco is attached and based on constant belief and faith in the religion of Islam, patriotism and upholding the constitutional monarchy by well-informed citizens, who desire to actively participate in private and public affairs both locally and nationally while aware of their rights and duties, imbued with a spirit of dialogue and acceptance in a state of law and justice.
However, civic education must distinguish between education and indoctrination. Civic education enables people to make wise decisions and choices, in a full consciousness of alternatives, and fosters the development of reasoned commitments that permit a free society to exist.
Unfortunately, some signs arise from time to time to display how low our sense of civility could be, and how our civic engagement is no more than a devoid of content political speech. The low rate of participation in the elections, the harassment of women in the streets, the disrespect of others’ opinions, the fear and irresponsiveness relation between the constituents and constitutes, are just some illustrations of what is going on in our daily life. Civic education has a lot to do in our country; every individual shares the responsibility without forgetting the important part of the family, the school, NGO’s and the media in this matter.
In this vein, media ensures that citizens make conscientious, knowledgeable choices, more willingly than operate out of ignorance or half-truths; moreover, the information makes people aware of what is going on in their societies to better understand them. It empowers people to practice their citizenry by giving them the tool of facts and skills to stand for what is right for them and for their communities.
The media part in civic education is as vital as the family and the school. The importance of an independent, pluralist, professional, impartial and socially responsible media for upgrading governance and self-governance cannot be under-estimated.
Generally, radio talks, online media users and regular newspaper readers are more expected to have more advanced and detailed opinions on public issues than other citizens. More than that, well-informed people can participate effectively in shaping the public opinion and the flow of ideas in a participatory and collaborative environment. Thus, communicatory practices affect political and economic powers and the structuring of society.
As a result, a new generation of Moroccan news reporters, analysts and editorialists has appeared on the Moroccan press scene. For instance, Rachid Nini’s controversial chronicles have been an outstanding and useful tool to expose corruption, denounce injustice and share knowledge about important societal issues. This new generation of journalists has come to play a political role, in opening the general public’s eyes, by publishing the shortcomings of our political system, of our society and of ourselves as citizens as well.
In this case, the Moroccan press has a tight relation with the civic education of Moroccans today, it is simply enabling them to participate in their society as active citizens, not only by providing them the necessary data, but also by immersing people through the content of the news articles and reports, about their shared individual responsibilities as matures citizens, in charge of their present and future situations, conscientious about their surroundings and about their political, social, economic and cultural priorities.
In a country that goes through a democratic transition, the press could contribute enormously in the mutation process of society, by providing the necessary political culture for the general public, people could engage in their own voices about the issues that they care about.
The press could be a communication channel between the decision makers and the ordinary citizens; in addition, it has the power to influence, inspire, educate and direct human thinking, belief and activity.
The political system should provide the necessary freedom of the press so it could perform in a positive way. At the same time, it is recommended to awake the journalists’ consciousness about their important task in providing civic education, to enhance their civic competencies in analyzing and reporting of civic affairs and to encourage greater prioritizing of civic news among Moroccan press institutions.
Hafid Yuba Alaoui