French missions: geopolitics textbooks displaying a truncated map of Morocco at the heart of a controversy

The map of Morocco cut off from its Sahara in the pages of a school manual, programmed in French schools in Morocco. This is the element that set fire to the powder this week in the press and on the Moroccan web. Le360 conducted the investigation to unravel the true from the false.

National media have been reporting the same information for several days: history textbooks have been withdrawn from French schools in Morocco, due to the presence of a map of Morocco without its Sahara.

According to this same information, the history teachers themselves would have participated in this withdrawal of the incriminated textbooks, the customs, it is explained, “having requested the seizure of all the books on all the establishments of Morocco”, and we also learned that reverse logistics collection is underway.

The information gave rise to strong reactions on the Moroccan Web, many Internet users seeing it as an official position of France against the territorial integrity of Morocco and a sneaky desire to corrupt the minds of Moroccan students, enrolled in French schools in the country.

What is it really? Le360 carried out several checks with parents, students and French schools to get to the bottom of this story.

No “withdrawal” but deprogramming

Contacted by Le360, a parent of a Terminale student enrolled at the Descartes high school in Rabat, explains that, contrary to what has been said in the press, the teachers would not have withdrawn the textbooks, the image of an orchestrated raid in the classrooms. “The old textbooks have simply been invalidated for this year’s program and this, from this start of the school year”, tells us this parent. “The new textbooks are already available for some students,” he continues.

To find out for sure, we contacted the management of the Lycée Descartes, whose photo of the establishment also illustrates the press articles dealing with this withdrawal of textbooks. Questioned on the subject, the management of the establishment reacted by email to our questions by stating that “in response to your message, I inform you that no Terminale manual has been withdrawn”.

Le360 also appealed by email to the Cooperation and Cultural Action Service (SCAC) as well as various French establishments across Morocco, notably in El Jadida, Casablanca, Tangier, Agadir and Marrakech. When this article was published, no reaction followed.

However, some Terminale students from the Lyautey high school in Casablanca claim, interviewed by Le360, not to have heard of this controversy or to have found a truncated map of Morocco in their history textbook. They corroborate their statement with the photo of a map of Morocco, including the Atlantic Sahara, appearing in their manual.

Same story for parents of other school levels of Casablanca establishments. After checking the manuals of 6e and 3th of history-geography, it appears that the maps of Morocco respect the territorial integrity of the country, which is represented with its Sahara. It could therefore be, as the parent of a pupil of the Lycée Descartes asserts, the invalidation of a textbook from one year to another, a fact that occurs each school year.

Not all French establishments are concerned

This is indeed the case, after checking the list of school textbooks for the 2022-2023 school year of the Descartes high school, it is clearly indicated on the list of supplies to be purchased that the Terminale history-geography textbook differs from the ‘last year.

The list of Lycée Descartes 2022-2023 Terminale textbooks

The list of textbooks to buy, for the Terminale class, for the 2022-2023 school year, at the Lycée Descartes in Rabat.

© Copyright: DR

Students are thus asked to acquire the manual “History-Geography, Geopolitics and Political Sciences Tle (2020)”, published by Magnard editions. Mentioned in red, this manual is among “the novelties for the start of the 2022 school year” is indicated on this list.

The new geopolitics textbook on the curriculum of French high schools in Morocco

The cover of the new textbook on the program for the 2022-2023 school year, “History-Geography, Geopolitics and Political Sciences Tle (2020)”, published by Magnard Editions.

© Copyright: DR

Same topo at Eugène Regnault high school in Tangier, where this same new manual is appearing this year. And at the Charcot high school in El Jadida, we are also planning a new edition for this subject, still at Magnard editions, with a manual published in 2020.

On the other hand, a quick tour of the lists of textbooks from the Victor Hugo high school in Marrakech and the Lyautey high school in Casablanca tells us that this same textbook is scheduled for the start of the 2022-2023 school year, but that it was already on the program for the ‘last year.

In the footsteps of the geopolitics textbook by which the scandal happened

What about the manual, which was in force last year at the Descartes high school and which was deprogrammed by this establishment this year? To find out more, we consulted the lists of textbooks to buy from the previous year on the Lycée Descartes website.

The list of textbooks to buy from Lycée Descartes 2021-2022

The list of textbooks to buy, for the Terminale class, for the 2021-2022 school year, at the Lycée Descartes in Rabat.

© Copyright: DR

Included in the said list is the following textbook: “History-Geography, Geopolitics, Political Science. Terminale Spécialité”, published in 2020 by Hachette Education. (For clarification, not all the sites of the aforementioned establishments keep the archives of previous years online, unlike the Lycée Descartes, which is why we cite this establishment as the only example.)

The deprogrammed geopolitics manual of the French missions

The cover of the textbook “History-Geography, Geopolitics, Political Science. Terminale Spécialité”, published in 2020 by Hachette Education.

© Copyright: DR

Is it precisely this manual which would pose a problem and which would be at the origin of this controversy? We were able to consult the 488-page book, freely available on the internet, and as much to say that the surprise was there. Because indeed, in this manual of History-Geography and Geopolitics systematically appears a truncated map of Morocco, separated from the Sahara, which is mentioned under the name “Western Sahara”.

Truncated maps of Morocco in a geopolitical textbook

Examples of truncated maps of Morocco in the manual “History-Geography, Geopolitics, Political Sciences. Terminale Spécialité”, published in 2020 by Hachette Education.

© Copyright: DR

Contacted a second time about the programming of a new book instead of the previous one and the reasons that motivated this choice, the management of the Lycée Descartes chose not to respond to our email.

Textbooks displaying truncated maps of Morocco do not pass. The subject regularly makes a lot of noise in Morocco, as was the case last year at the Jean Charcot high school in El Jadida, with a geopolitics manual for class 1timewhich displayed this same type of cards.

Convinced that the offending book had to disappear illico presto from Moroccan booksellers, following this deprogramming, we decided to check the availability of the book in bookstores. Second major surprise, the manual in question is still available for sale in the first Casablanca bookseller consulted. “I’ll put it aside for you?” asks the bookseller on the phone.

Second try in another local bookshop… Rebelote, the manual is there and there. Same topo on the web, where the manual is available on online bookstore sites.

How is it that these works, bearing the amputated map of the Kingdom of Morocco, are marketed in Morocco? This is the question we asked the Casablanca bookseller from whom we acquired the two books (the one that was on the program last year at Descartes high school and the new one in force this year), both available in quantity.

Visibly discovering for the first time the truncated maps of Morocco in the manual at the heart of the controversy, the bookseller said he “did not understand” why this book had been programmed in schools or how it could have been marketed in Morocco.

His astonishment, however, takes nothing away from the seriousness of the fact. To ensure that the new geopolitics book does not contain the same type of “errors”, we have reviewed it, comparing it with the previous one, and this time Morocco is included in its entirety, in all cards where it appears.

The maps of Morocco with its Sahara in the new geopolitics textbook for French schools

Examples of maps of Morocco with its Sahara, in the new geopolitics manual in the Terminale classes program, “History-Geography, Geopolitics and Political Sciences Tle (2020)”, published by Magnard Editions.

© Copyright: DR

Terminale students of the current school year will therefore not have to go over a textbook that insults, from Morocco, the sovereignty of the Kingdom over the Sahara. The mystery remains however complete on the free sale of textbooks with the map of Morocco amputated from its Sahara. Who gave the visa for the importation of these textbooks? How could they enter Morocco? Are establishments, such as French missions, areas subject to an exceptional regime, which do not respect Moroccan laws?

French missions: geopolitics textbooks displaying a truncated map of Morocco at the heart of a controversy