Moroccan teachers launch strike amid trial of colleagues

Moroccan teachers launch strike amid trial of colleagues
Moroccan contractual teachers have been protesting their precarious working conditions for over four years, demanding permanent jobs and better social benefits.
3 min read
11 May, 2022
More than forty Moroccan contractual teachers were on trial in the past months. [Getty]

Moroccan teachers launched on Monday their second nationwide strike in less than a month as tensions mount between the teachers and the ministry of education.

From 9 to 14 May, thousands of Moroccan contractual teachers are expected to hold a national strike in support of their colleagues, who are on trial for "violating the state of a health emergency" and "insulting security forces" during protests. 

On Tuesday, about ten contractual teachers were on trial in Rabat's court. The sentences have not been announced yet.

Meanwhile, dozens of their colleagues held a sit-in in Marrakech to denounce "the made-up accusations" against the accused teachers.

"In the time that teachers should be at their classes teaching students, they are now facing the court for nothing but the fact that they decided to take to the streets and protest their work conditions," Mustafa Kehma, a contractual teacher who participated at the sit-in, told The New Arab.

More than forty teachers were put on trial for similar accusations over the past few months, including Nezha Majdi who was sentenced to three months in prison for "insulting public authorities with the intent to harm their honour."

Majdi was charged after she told the media that following her arrest during the protests the Moroccan police had sexually assaulted her during the 48 hours she spent in five different police stations. No investigation was conducted into her accusations.

Tensions between contractual teachers and the government began in 2016 when the Moroccan state decided to establish a new hiring system in Moroccan public schools, known as "the contractual system."

Public school teachers in Morocco usually were hired by the country's education ministry, but since 2016, an estimated number of 100,000 public school teachers in Morocco have instead signed contracts with regional academies, with which they are granted lower pensions and fewer job security.

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With the unemployment rate in Morocco currently standing at 12.7 per cent, the teachers say they had no alternative but to sign these temporary contracts.

For more than four years, contractual teachers have been protesting their precarious working conditions demanding permanent jobs and better social service benefits.

Before being elected in September, Morocco's new prime minister Aziz Akhannouch promised to prioritise education reforms.

Despite numerous meetings with the contractual teachers, Akhannouch's cabinet has failed to resolve the dispute so far.

Caught between the teachers and the government disagreement, students are seen as the main victim of the strikes since it lessens the time during exam season.

"Every month or two, my daughter does not study tens of hours for some important subjects, in which she is supposed to take an important final exam. (...) It's not up to our children to pay for the government and the teachers' issues," said Fatima, a Moroccan mother of a student in the last year of secondary school, to The New Arab.

On its part, the ministry of education said it has launched a support system in collaboration with retired teachers who are willing to help students continue their education during the strike period.

In response, contractual teachers say they refuse to be guilted for practising their constitutional right of striking against work conditions.

"The ministry tends to focus on how our strikes affect the students, instead of trying to solve this national issue by ending the contractual system and offering us better work conditions that suit the profession of teacher," Chaimae, a Moroccan contractual teacher, said to The New Arab.

Contractual teachers have also said that they are being hit with financial penalties from $US 70 to $US 150 for each protest they hold. Moroccan Contractual teachers are paid 5,000 MAD ($US 500) monthly.