Five thousand teachers across morocco were on hunger strike. “We are Moroccan qualified and trained teachers. We are graduates from a government program. We are still protesting because we demand recruitment and placement at Moroccan public schools since the government promised to hire us as we finish the training.” – Ismael explained to me as I stood in front of him, in the middle of a crowd of teachers lying down on the busy Jemma Elfna Square.
When I heard about them they were 80 hours into a 96 hours hunger strike, but they’re fight for justice has been going on for longer than 7 months. They had 16 hours to go and already 70 teachers fainted and have been rushed off to hospital.
So let’s have a look into this promising program, back in 2013, the PJD-led government, the Ministry of Education, and the private sector signed an agreement and launched the teacher training program also known as “Programme Gouvernemental de Formation de 10,000 Cadres Pédagogiques”, or PPG. This program would train 10,000 university graduates and recruit them into the private or the public sector as teachers. Ismael tells me, “While the arrangement seemed promising, in practice it was unrealistic, as the jobs promised in the private sector were not available. The private sector breaks the promise and doesn’t [don’t] want to abide by the premises of the agreement.”
This training is equal to what a teacher would receive at regional centers for education and training. Even the Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane, acknowledged the high quality of the training the PPG graduates. So why, you may ask yourself, are teachers with Bachelor degrees and Master degree, and even some with PhDs taking to the streets to try get their voices heard, but so far are failing miserably? There are various reasons; the first one is the most obvious, that the private sector has not abided to the agreement and therefore the government cannot hold their end of the promise. But another factor is the Ministry of Education recently released two decrees in July 2015, first to reduce the training scholarship by half, and second, to separate teacher training from recruitment.
Mohammed, who has been a public school teacher since the 80’s adds to the conversation that the wages for teachers are incredibly low, public schools hardly are allocated enough money to pay the electricity and water bills. He explained to me, that there is an intention from the government to privatize the school system; but it’s not like the governments are doing a good job in the first place. Public schools in Morocco are already struggling. In some cases, if not all, Ismael tells me you can find 143 children in one classroom with one teacher. “How are the teachers supposed to teach? It’s just impossible.” He tells me.
Here’s the real catch, Morocco’s education system is struggling because there is a shortage of teachers. A shortage of approximately 20,000 teachers for the public schools only; and when I stood there, in front of me, lying on the ground, fainting, hungry, were more than 100 teachers, ready to do what they do best; teach. The parents are outraged. They do not want to be sending their children to a school where the ratio of students to teachers is higher, by a good 100. This is only done in hopes that the parents will take their children out of public schools, which are free, and put them into a private school for higher education and pay for it, which many cannot afford. Not to mention the simple right to free education.
Isn’t it frightening that the government want nothing to do with the education system they developed? Doesn’t this call for someone to click the red button and say “hang on what’s going on here?” Why isn’t anyone doing anything? Why isn’t the media covering this? Internationally nor nationally. I no longer understand what we humans pick up in the media, and what we do not, I don’t think I ever understood – but now, its more confusing then ever as I watched these people starve themselves trying to hold onto their dignity as educators of the world.
They had 16 hours left to go, and when I asked the group of teachers what the next steps were, they told me “we will extend the strike, some of us will extend however long it takes. Our whole lives even. We need to hold onto our dignity otherwise a life with no dignity is a life not worth living. We are going to continue with our peaceful protest to give the government another chance to reconsider.”
If these teachers are not proving themselves now, I don’t know what they can do that will. Since my last visit Ismael has been sending several emails asking to help get their voices heard. So I hope this article will make you realize the importance of educators.
So speaking for the youth, of all ages, of all nations,
to the teachers,
we need you.
If you feel you are connected to networks that can help these teachers reach justice, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Melati Wijsen