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Morocco: The Crisis in the House of Education

Moroccan Teacher Trainees Still Protest against the New Governmental Decree

Rabat – The arm-wrestling party has lasted too long. The whole issue could – should – have been settled without as much ado, injury and pain. Bad language has been used, convictions too strong to be reversed have been expressed and feelings have been hurt. In the feud, the government of the Kingdom of Morocco is opposed to some nine thousand teacher trainees who are challenging two decisions which they have judged to be abusive. Those who have made them, however, claim they are constitutional, politically legitimate and strategically urgent.

For months now, neither party has shown any will to discuss with the other, let alone negotiate with it. Both stand fast. The head of the government has sworn that neither decision will be dropped or modified rejecting thus alternatives before they are formulated. From their side, the trainees have made it clear that they will not step back unless the government complied. Meanwhile, no intermediation or intercession was accepted by either party. The solution, however, avers impossible without the intervention of a third party.

The students have repeatedly made it clear that they had lost trust in the government and made allusions that the Monarch, alone, can rescue them from their predicament. Down the road, the issue has kept transforming itself from a legal debate to a political action. What had started as a case against the legal enforceability of two ministerial decrees and the retroactivity of the law developed to become an action against the political legitimacy and relevance of the provisions and objectives of the two decisions.

In fact, the trainees had first opposed the decrees on the basis that they had been enforced on them prior to their official publication and that they were not aware of them when they registered for the training program. When this argument fell as evidence was produced that the trainees had actually signed documents that referred to the decrees, they produced other arguments against what they claim are the underlying objectives of the decisions.

In the assessment of the trainees, these objectives are recommendations of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to promote the education private sector at the expense of the public educational system. Their argument is twofold. Firstly, the private sector should not benefit from the training programs funded by the budget of the State and that it must fund its own training programs and, secondly, education is the responsibility of the State and the people are entitled to a free universal education. Privatizing education would result in reinforcing socioeconomic discrepancies and in widening the already too dramatic divide between social categories and thus consecrate the rule of the privileged few over the masses. The two decrees are described as evidence of the corruption of decision makers and of the political institution as a whole. These arguments, whether one adheres to them or not, are purely political in nature. Whether or not it is up to the teacher trainees to oppose the decrees on such grounds and halt the training system while militating for social and economic justice is also a matter of political choice.

Furthermore, the turn which interventions of law enforcement that have been termed as disproportionate by many an independent observer took have led to confrontations in several training centers that poisoned the situation and drove to very thin chances for negotiation and compromise. It seems that the recent attempts of a group of members of civil society and labor unions which have led the government to make a symbolic move by accepting some demands of the trainees and deferring the decision about others to later were not convincing to the trainees who have rejected them wholly demanding that all their claims be met or their action will continue should it cost them their careers or the fall of the government.

The issue is no longer the separation of training and recruitment nor the reduction by half of the scholarships which the two decrees are about but of revising the government’s educational policy and opposing the recommendations of the Breton Woods institutions. Some have seen in this a trial of the strength and coherence of the government. In fact, dissonant statements that may cost some ministers their seats in the government, are heard about responsibilities related to the decrees and to the use of force to meet the demonstrations. Others see in the events the remote controlled manipulation of a competing ideological trend of the Islamic movement and others risks jeopardizing the stability of the county taken by a group of politically immature young men and women emboldened by the increasing virtual support they find in social media but also by the solidarity they have in the street of sibling professions as well as diverse groups of the population unhappy for various reasons. Whatever the case, it is sure that the issue has become a case of passion and been so personalized that it is unsafe to leave it to the two feuding parties …

For the sake of national interest wisdom from both sides is called for … It will all depend on how each party will judge the priorities of the moment and on how various components of the social and political fabric of the country will assume urgent responsibilities.

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