Prince Harry and Meghan spotlight girls’ education in Morocco

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, charmed Moroccans during their 3-day visit to the North African country, which is part of official attempts to bolster ties between the United Kingdom and Morocco.
Saturday 02/03/2019
'Proud day.' Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, visit the "Education For All" boarding house in Asni, Morocco, February 24.  (AP)
'Proud day.' Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, visit the "Education For All" boarding house in Asni, Morocco, February 24. (AP)

LONDON - Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, duchess of Sussex, met with young women in Morocco during a 3-day trip to the country to support girls’ education.

The royal couple arrived in Morocco February 23, met with an official honour guard. They were hosted by Moroccan King Mohammed VI at the royal palace with many viewing the trip as a prelude to the UK government seeking to cement stronger economic ties with Rabat following Brexit.

The royal couple’s trip included visits to the Royal Moroccan Equestrian Club Dar Essalam as well as a cooking event with children from disadvantaged backgrounds and a private audience with King Mohammed VI.

They visited a secondary boarding school in Ansi in the Atlas Mountains, backing Morocco’s Education for All charity that promotes education for girls aged 12-18 in rural areas.

“It’s important that every girl has access to further and higher education,” Duchess Meghan told charity officials during the visit.

The royal couple chatted with teachers and students at the school, with the duchess showcasing a command of the French language.

“Wow, that’s impressive!” Duchess Meghan was heard responding to a student who told her she wanted to study astronomy in an exchange posted on Twitter by Kensington Palace.

A statement from Kensington Palace confirmed that the royal couple’s visit was to “build on the close relationship between the UK and Morocco” and “highlight the vital role that girls’ education and youth empowerment are playing in, and shaping, modern Morocco.”

“A proud day yesterday! Was it a dream?” the charity posted on Twitter. “We are so grateful for our time with Harry and Meghan. It inspired us and motivates us to be the best we can be.”

One-quarter of Moroccans aged 15-24 are out of work and not in training or education, with that figure rising to 44% for Moroccan girls and young women, official data indicated.

UK Ambassador to Morocco Thomas Reilly heaped praise on the royal couple for the trip.

“This was a very different kind of trip -- personal, informal and away from the pomp and pageantry of traditional visits,” he told Harper’s Bazaar. “Moroccans loved the way [Meghan and Harry] were so spontaneous and cared so deeply.”

“Here’s a woman jumping into a helicopter to fly 1,400 metres high, still smiling and ready to do it all, ready to push the issues that matter,” he added.

The royal couple thanked Education for All founder Michael McHugo for his work in Morocco. McHugo was awarded a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire this year and was formally invested with the honour by Prince Harry during the trip.

“Education for All has given girls from the poorest villages and most remote areas of Morocco the chance to reach their potential and contribute to Morocco’s continued development,” a release from Kensington Palace said.

During the visit, Duchess Meghan was given a traditional Moroccan henna tattoo, with many saying it represented good luck for the pregnant duchess. It is believed that the Morocco trip, which concluded February 26, will be the last foreign trip that the royal couple take before the birth of their first child.

The United Kingdom is to leave the European Union at the end of the month, potentially allowing for lucrative bilateral trade deals, with many hoping that the UK government can leverage goodwill from the royal couple’s visit to ensure a speedy deal with Morocco.

Bilateral trade between the United Kingdom and Morocco is valued at around at $2.4 billion, far short of economic partnerships between Morocco’s economic partnership with countries such as Spain, Germany and France.

A delegation of British businessmen is to visit Morocco March 4-5 to explore cooperation opportunities in energy, education and finance sectors.