Morocco's teacher trainees to begin hunger strike over cuts

Morocco's teacher trainees to begin hunger strike over cuts
Thousands of teacher trainees will begin a hunger strike next week outside the parliament building in the Moroccan capital Rabat to protest education cuts that threaten their employment.
3 min read
05 September, 2016
The two controversial decrees have sparked a wave of protests [AFP]

Thousands of teacher trainees in Morocco will begin a hunger strike next week in the latest escalation against government decrees that would cut grants and affect their job prospects.

The ten thousand teachers enrolled in the government's Teacher Trainee programme announced they would begin their hunger strike on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, as part of a sit-in outside the Parliament building the capital, Rabat.

According to Morocco World News, the national coordinator for the teachers' movement, Mohammad Samadi, said the escalation aimed to "open a dialogue" with the government and "find equitable solutions" for the crisis.

Earlier this month, Samadi organised a peaceful march in Tangiers, where teacher trainees burned their diplomas to protest the government's failure to fulfil its promises for integration in the labour market.

The teachers said they attempted to contact the relevant government bodies, but received no response, despite months of continued protests.

However, education ministry official Fatima Wahmi has said that the government was still committed to train 10,000 teachers for private education institutions, as integration is not necessarily limited to public education.

Morocco's teacher trainees crisis began last year when the government adopted two controversial decrees that threatened to worsen the unemployment crisis already affecting Moroccan teachers.

The first decree cut teacher training grants by half, reducing a teacher trainee's monthly stipend of 2,500 Dirhams ($252) to as little as 1,200 Dirhams ($121).

In a country with some of the lowest teacher income rates in the world, teacher trainees who barely survived on an already-low pay would therefore be forced to find other sources of income to make ends meet.

The second decree separated teacher training from recruitment. At the end of the one-year training programme, trainees would have to sit for a recruitment test, which would determine whether they get officially hired or not.

Shocking images of the assault went viral on social media [AFP]

Since then, the decrees have sparked a wave of protests, with trainee teachers – who number 10,000 nationwide – boycotting lectures and demanding that the government reverse its decisions.

The situation worsened when security forces violently dispersed the peaceful protests, leading to dozens of injuries.

Shocking images of the assault went viral on social media, sparking outrage and drawing local and international condemnations, with many people denouncing the excessive use of force by the police.

"Clubbing and tossing stones at peaceful demonstrators would fall well outside the realm of lawful means of dispersing a peaceful demonstration," Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch, said at the time.

"The Moroccan authorities should make sure the police and security forces don't use unnecessary violence against demonstrators and to hold accountable anyone who does."

The violent events, later referred to as Black Thursday, were also condemned by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

"The attack on the protesting trainee teachers is a brutal assault on the right to freedom of expression that is guaranteed in all the international charters and conventions," Cairo-based human rights group said in a statement.

"It is a violation of the right to peaceful protests, and attempt to impose decrees and laws that affect the citizens' lives forcibly and violently, which are completely outdated methods."