Yassine Ettayal dreamt of becoming an engineer. Being a social entrepreneur wasn’t his objective at the beginning. The course of his life events led him to Enactus, a Moroccan student Social Entrepreneurship incubator and accelerator and also a MedUp! project partner. There Yassine was introduced for the first time to the concept of social entrepreneurship: “I found that social entrepreneurship could serve in resolving social problems. That’s how I gave up on the idea of becoming an engineer, because I was telling myself that being an engineer would have surely given me the opportunity to gain well to provide for me and my family, but being a social entrepreneur is the tool through which I could resolve a social problem, thus providing for myself and helping a large portion of society”.
Educall started as a social project in Enactus, and with his associate Nada Yassine decided to take on the responsibility of leading the project. Since in Morocco the status of social enterprise is not yet legally recognized, they decided to create an S.a.r.l. and officially started their adventure on June 29th, 2015. Aiming to provide quality education to all children, independently of their social and economic background, Educall has accompanied, to this date, 1.250 children. The project offers tailored educational programme for children facing learning difficulties in school. It is both a pedagogical and a playful educational program supporting the Moroccan schooling. Educall offers differentiated payments: “children should care only about their studies: we discuss financial matters with the parents and we always try to include everyone coming to us”.
Yassine’s life changed after starting the project: “My mindset transformed because, before, I saw myself as an individual, as a person that could not be able to make a big change outside of its restricted social circle that includes family and friends. But now I am sure that even as an individual I can create a movement of positive change in my region, district and even country”.
The COVID19 challenge and the fight for gender equality
Before the COVID19 pandemic, Educall focused more on in person workshops, mainly in Rabat and Casablanca. The lockdown was for them also an inspirational challenge, as they were able to develop new working models and switched mostly online, although trying to maintain some hybrid workshops, alternating in-person and online. Educall also started a project named “Learn from home” involving and training many volunteers to help children of all grades and extended their offer from 2 to more than 33 cities in Morocco. Yassine believes this pandemic made parents realize that technology can also be an educational tool.
“Instead of complaining as I would have done in the past, I turned the pandemic into an opportunity to implement my idea, mobilizing and involving many other people with the same vision as mine. And that’s the best part in this adventure: every day brings an opportunity to learn and to experience new things. Five years might seem a lot, but they passed very quickly, and we are aware of the fact that the way is still very long because the results of our work will show in 10 or 20 years from now. We need much patience and resilience”.
Yassine is also aware of the great potential that working in the education field can represent to advance gender equality and believes that it is important to start working on this with children from a very young age. For this reason, they created a program “She can”, not addressing only girls, because it is crucial that also young boys become aware of the problem. The program focuses on three levels: the first level is identity. Girls need to be comfortable in their identity as females, without seeing any problem in that and knowing that they have the right to raise their voices on social matters. The second is the body level. Working with children aged between 5 and 12, it is essential to raise awareness on body changes that occur at this age. Hence, since families often don’t take the time to address these topics with their children, Educall calls in professionals to explain that body transformation is normal and is something to be accepted. The last level is the social one. The focus is on teamwork and in showing young girls that they have a social support system they can rely on.
The role of MedUp! and future perspectives
The financial support of MedUp! was particularly critical for Educall: “MedUp! was as a windfall for us. It came in the perfect moment. Without the help from MedUp! we were probably going to stop the project in this very difficult period. Both financial and technical support were essential”. MedUp! provided the expertise to better manage their financial plan and avoid mistakes. In particular, Educall was facing some strategic obstacles to overcome: “Just having someone listening to us was of great help. Being isolated is the worst enemy for an entrepreneur. It is true that from your mistakes you can always learn, but it is also true that you can lose a lot”. Their objective is that Educall before MedUp! should not be the same as Educall after MedUp! and are confident that they will reach their goals because all the means to do so are there technical support and coaching, in addition to financial help.
If he has to imagine Educall’s future in the next two years, Yassine sees the project in the main cities, but also in small villages, both physically and through project partners or co-working spaces: “I am aware that this might sound ambitious but consider what we were able to reach in such a short period of time during a global pandemic! As feasible objective we can aspire to be in at least 6 of the 12 Moroccan regions”. More, Yassine aims at reaching both public and private schools and to continue their work with the “Moroccan league for children’s protection”.
Yassine’ tips to young, aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Do what you love to do, love what you do. Passion is what allows the world to progress. If I am passionate about something I will do my best to make it the best thing ever”. Moreover, Yassine advises to be resilient: embarking in the social entrepreneurship journey is not easy and patience is essential. He prefers to address this adventure as an investment, rather than as a sacrifice. In his own experience, Yassine spent more time on working on the project than going out with family and friends. This allowed him to develop a personal relationship with the project: “I can say that the more you are connected to your project, the more you make it progress, because obstacles are real. The beauty of this work is that it gives you the opportunity to not specialize on a specific topic, but you develop an expertise on many different fields. You never stop learning. So: resilience, perseverance, and strong belief in the project”.
This piece was elaborated with Yassine Ettayal from Educall and based on the materials collected as part of the MedUp! Mid-Term Evaluation process.