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L'Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie is a small private school that costs 68,900 dirhams, or about $8,400, a year to attend. (Public schools, on the other hand, are free.) The school’s 200 students spend their first three years as undergraduates, and their third year is required to be spent abroad. They return for their fourth and fifth years to specialize as master’s students, training to be leaders in government, diplomacy, academia and non-governmental organizations.
The summer after the first year, students undergo a month-long internship that endeavors to introduce them to people who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. This is supposed to teach students about the needs of others as well as give them a fundamental understanding of how leadership is structured in companies. Internships such as this are not unique to L'Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie, and are common among economics students.
Nejjar thought of herself as “foreign” when she started her internship because she felt like she had little in common with her co-workers. In addition to the language difference, Nejjar felt that her “secular” way of thinking was very different from her co-workers, many of whom were deeply religious.
“I wasn’t allowed to show my shoulders, legs, even my feet,” Nejjar said . . . “I wasn’t allowed to put on a lot of makeup.”
The majority of Moroccans are Muslim, but wearing a headscarf is culturally optional. In general, in the more affluent parts of town and around the schools women tend to wear them less, and seeing shorts and skirts is not outlandish. In less affluent parts of town, more women wear the scarves and it's rare to see bare legs.
“Every time you see a girl come in, even if she is a customer who wants to buy big things, if she wears shorts then they will of course sell, but after she goes back they will talk about her for hours and hours,” she said. “I felt so uncomfortable, because I’m used to being this girl who comes to the shop with a skirt or with shorts and to feel free in her own country.”
Even smiling is different. Nejjar smiles all the time, but for people in other social classes smiling to a man is seen as an invitation. When the managers would ask the buyers to smile—not flirtatiously—at the buyer for better customer service, it brought resentment from the sellers.
“And when you ask them to smile to the customers, they ask you why? They don’t smile to us; they don’t look at us,” Nejjar said.
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Morocco has less income inequality than the United States does. On the Gini Index, where 0 is perfect equality and 1 is perfect inequality, Morocco has a coefficient of .41 and the US scores .45. Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has written extensively on class divergence in the U.S. His book, Coming Apart: the State of White America, 1960-2010, shows that increasingly, class difference is more than economic. His research, based on the General Social Survey, shows that the upper class has become culturally sealed off from the rest of the country. They buy different kinds of cars, care about the environment and body weight, raise their children differently, want different vacations, and don’t care about professional sports like many other Americans do. Though class difference manifests differently in Morocco, the division is not uniquely an American problem.