El Allame said Nabil had taken a dual approach to his doctoral research, mixing quantitative and qualitative methods, even though the fieldwork would have been difficult enough for any student, disadvantaged or not. She said Nabil had recruited more than 500 participants in the research survey for his thesis.
El Allame said she was hurt that one professor had refused to supervise Nabil’s thesis because he was blind. At that moment, she felt moved to become more heavily involved in helping him because of “the lack of encouragement and support for this group of people with special needs in the university corps.”
Impetus for Reform
Activists and others who work with blind people in Morocco hope Nabil’s achievement will kickstart debate about the educational rights of people with disabilities in the kingdom. They hope his story will draw more attention to the needs of disadvantaged students in higher education and encourage efforts to find ways to overcome the obstacles that stand in their way.
They also advocate legislation related to the care of visually impaired people, especially since Morocco was the host signatory of the Marrakesh Treaty, which guarantees people with visual disabilities access to cultural publications around the world. The treaty is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which is one of the 15 specialised agencies of the United Nations.
Omar Ajabboun, president of the Moroccan Association for the Integration of the Blind, believes that blind students in Morocco face “a bitter reality, because they do not receive special courses in braille, nor in other languages, and there are no references they can rely on, especially at the university education stage.”
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Ajabboun told Al-Fanar Media that most blind students confront many difficulties at university. Some professors “do not allow the blind to record lectures,” so students must find solutions on their own without the help of the Ministry of Higher Education.
He added that there were no official statistics about blind students in Moroccan universities but said it was likely there were more than 700.
The association Ajabboun heads started work in 2007. One of its current initiatives is to establish the first kindergarten for blind children in Morocco.