Cape Coral | At St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, one of Tom James’ eighth grade math classes has taken on exploring the country of Morocco.
In the spirit of St. Andrew Catholic School becoming an International Baccalaureate primary year school, the students have become pen pals with students from a remote village in the Atlas Mountain range near the region of Imintanoute, Morocco. In addition to writing each other, the students have also done video calls and video messages with the students.
Abdellah Idbella, a friend of James, teaches in that school which is comprised of two classrooms: one for grades one through three, and another for grades four through six, who participate with the St. Andrew students as pen pals.
The village only has trails for donkeys and horses, the primary modes of transportation in and out of the village, and the nearest town is almost eight miles away. There is no running water for the village although there is electricity and cell phone service which had only been established in the last six months. While families and children are financially poor by First World standards, they value education. Students learn Arabic, French and their native Berber language, Tamazight, along with their regular studies.
Morocco was the first country to recognize the newly formed United States in 1777, and the Moroccan Treaty of Friendship, signed in 1786, is the longest unbroken treaty relationship in United States history. The oldest U.S. diplomatic property in the world is located in Tangier, Morocco. Moroccans are native Berbers (or “Amazigh”), and St. Augustine — Bishop of Hippo in North Africa and Doctor of the Church — was Berber.
The pen pal experience has opened the students’ eyes to see how others live in a world separated by thousands of miles.