The roundtable discussions I have had with my students have given rise to a book “An Investigation of Political Apathy amongst Students: A case study of Cadi Ayyad University. In this respect, I would like to express my thanks to my students, who have shown exemplary patience, ready and generous availability of advice and information.
What actually sparked off this qualitative research undertaken within the confines of the Faculty of Humanities in Marrakesh was a pressing need to assess the veracity of the assumption that underscores the existence of an inextricably intertwined correlation between political interest and political involvement. To that end, undergraduate students were kindly invited to participate in interviews and focus group discussions. No undue influence was exerted on them, for they were free to respond to an array of questions with regard to the current situation in the country, major political actors, and the upcoming elections.
The focus group discussions were held in a classroom with me acting as a moderator, using the tape recorder unobtrusively so that students might not hold back on their responses to the above-mentioned talking points. The survey results show that there is a growing chasm between the majority of students and political life, on account of a number of reasons that are exhaustively laid bare in the book.
It turns out that the agents of political socialization, that is, parents and school, did not influence the formation of political involvement among students here in Marrakesh. Therefore, the development of political interest did not start during childhood; it only began to take roots by the time those students had made the transition into adolescence.
Two major conclusions emerge: First, with regard to panelists (Group A-B-C), parents did not play a key role in the political education of their children. Thereby, respondents entered adulthood without a strong parental cue giving. Second, students associated with group D entered adulthood with a strong parental influence and were likely to embrace their parents’ political attitudes.
Our survey findings about students coming of age have demonstrated a palpable change in the level of political interest among informants belonging to group A-B-C as a result of their assuming new roles; to put it differently, the acquisition of political knowledge among informants belonging to these three groups was to begin to take place the instant they left their patronizing parents to pursue their undergraduate studies in Marrakesh. As to the students hailing from Marrakesh, it was only when they enrolled at the university that they started to crystallize an independent political outlook of their own.
Actually the context in which students have grown up has largely conditioned their political awareness and development; a clear allusion is made here to two tremendously important socializing agents, namely family and the school. It follows from the data collected that the formation of political engagement among most of the informants has not come to pass during their childhood. In fact, that period is a crucial one in that during these impressionable years, the students (then kids) were readily responsive to agents of socialization.
However, the respondents at that time were not fortunate enough to acquire political cognition, for the direct transmission of parental political values to their offspring did not occur; moreover, parents with low socio-economic status had nothing to bequeath to their children.
Be that as it may, I explained to my students that they should engage politically and not leave the political field open to ill-intentioned religious hardliners and radicals. As a matter of fact, extremists always target young Moroccans suffering from social and financial problems and attempt to capitalize on these problems to brainwash those psychologically frail young people, who remain amenable to the noxious ideas propagated by extremists.
Those ill-intentioned parasites make those psychologically fragile young creatures believe that the root causes of their woes are to be ascribed to the government that does not care a hang about them, and are thus turned, through financial incentives and skewed religious indoctrination, into living bombs waiting to go off at any time.
It follows from the survey findings that politically uninterested students are unfortunately less likely to be mobilized and attempts to enhance political participation are likely to have no impact whatsoever on them.
While debate over political apathy among young people rages in Morocco, there is still a likelihood that religious hardliners will continue to lure alienated and marginalized young people to their cause. Furthermore, lack of civic education and lack of moderate religious instruction have provided a breeding ground for political disengagement and radicalism. Therefore, it has become imperative to find an efficient antidote that might hopefully extricate young people, whose faith in politics and politician has shrunk dramatically, from the jaws of extremism.
To get out of this, focus group respondents stressed the need to focus on civic education as an efficient catalyst for the development of political involvement among young people; they unanimously agreed on the fact that exposure to civic education at an early age is sufficient to get those prospective voters to the polls, for civic habits formed early in life.
Among the suggestions advanced by the informants to encourage political interest and involvement among students revolve around the same factors that switched them off politics: a. Politics should be made more interesting and more accessible. b. Media credibility. c. Incorporating politics as a taught course. d. Politicians should be more open and more responsive to the needs and concerns of young people. e. Facilitating young people’s involvement in the political process by offering them opportunities to engage in politics.
Under this last recommendation is subsumed a number of requirements, namely, reforming our educational system, encouraging political participation, refocusing education, fostering the use of social networking, revamping political parties, and moralizing political life.
As mentioned previously, the upshot of political apathy in Morocco is the growth of extremism and to contain this pernicious specter, political parties and religious pundits should raise awareness by mentoring and tutoring young people, stepping outside their comfort zone once in a while and getting closer to their communities to understand their needs. It is high time both politicians and religious men stopped ignoring their role as educators.
All the informants across the sample agreed that to forestall the propagation of fanatic ideologies and prevent marginalized young people from being transmuted into suicide perpetrators, a number of social problems need to be addressed: poverty, marginalization, corruption, favoritism, nepotism etc. The more these problems are addressed, the greater the chances will be of igniting young Moroccan’s interest in politics .