Rabat – The 2018 school year started tragically at Ouarzazate’s Sidi Daoud high school when a 17-year old student violently beat one of his teachers during a class. The student has since been arrested, but the incident has triggered a discussion about discipline in Moroccan schools.
A shocking video, shot at the school in the south of Morocco on October 31 and posted on social media a few days later, shows the teenage boy repeatedly punching his teacher, a man in his 50s, in the face.
The video shows several students intervening to try to stop their classmate, entreating him “to let the teacher go.” The teenager steps back for a few seconds, as the teacher upbraids one of his other students for not helping him while the student was beating him. The first student comes back again to assault the teacher even more violently, punching him and knocking him to the ground.
The 17-year old attacker was arrested on Sunday pending investigation into the circumstances of the assault and the teenager’s motives.
In response to the video, Morocco’s Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training immediately published two press releases strongly condemning the violence.
The ministry’s regional directorate in Ouarzazate said that “urgent measures have been taken in response to the violence against the high school teacher.” Condemning the video, the educational body stated that it would not tolerate practices that harm the “dignity” of teachers. A committee was also formed to determine the facts of the case.
Three Moroccan teachers’ unions also condemned the student’s physical attack on his teacher in a joint statement. The unions called for protests in front of the ministry’s regional directorates across the country urging teachers to express their condemnation of the assault, which they described as “horrific behavior.”
The video made the headlines of local news outlets on Saturday, sparking national outcry among social media users, who strongly criticized a perceived lack of discipline in Moroccan schools.
Many also pointed out the passive neutrality and complicity by the attacker’s classmates. Larbi Arbaoui, a high school teacher from the region, described the scene as like a “play performed by the students, who were enjoying the show.”
“This is very outrageous given the fact that Ouarzazate is a conservative area, where such violence is not really common,” Arbaoui added.
While teachers’ unions have condemned the student’s behavior, urging that he be held accountable, others have blamed Morocco’s educational system as well as an apparent lack of commitment and sincerity of teachers.
“If the teacher was good in controlling his classroom, such an incident would never happen. This is of course not an excuse for students assaulting their teachers, but lack of discipline is also a problem if the teacher is unable to control his students,” some social media users said.
The video has also put under light the problem of education ministry’s decrees that limit teachers’ authority within the classroom.
“The ministerial decrees do not help teachers as they are functioning only for the benefit of students. In the past, if students are not fully equipped with the required tools, teachers have the right to expel students,” explained Arbaoui.
While Arbaoui blamed the ministerial decrees, which he believes limit teachers’ authority over their students, Fadwa Rajouani, a teacher in a village near Agadir, said that the ministerial decrees should not be blamed.
Rajouani claimed that the teacher in the video suffered from psychological disorders for a long time due to the assaults he faces from students, but he had never filed a complaint against them.
She also condemned the regional directorate’s negligence, questioning why it had never intervened while the teacher suffered mental disorders for so long.
“Why the regional directorate did not intervene to solve the problem before the video was leaked?” wondered Rajouani.
“We cannot expect students to understand teachers’ mental conditions that might lead the teacher to insult them,” she added
For Rajouani, the students are not qualified to deal with people with mental disorders, they will not tolerate insults and inappropriate words from a professor who has “psychological issues,” and “their reactions will be predictable and natural.”
The assaulted teacher has reportedly been verbally and physically harassed different times before the last assault, but he allegedly never filed a complaint against his students.