“The most dangerous thing is to feel unstable,” is the feeling shared among Morocco’s self-styled “forcibly contracted teachers.”
Rabat – More than 10,000 of young Moroccans made their voices heard internationally as they flocked to Rabat to protest the government’s alternative decision regarding their status as contractual teachers throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning.
The teachers, who describe themselves as “forcibly contracted educators,” decided to camp out in front of Parliament on Saturday night to show their determination.
Anti-riot police used water cannons and police motorcycles to disperse the protests.Some teachers also said there was “violence” during the protests.
Some video clips and pictures showed faces covered in blood.
The government has hired teachers under annually renewable contracts every year since 2016.To fill the need for more teachers while managing heavy public debts, the government hired the teachers through regional academies.
The contractual teachers, who are not officially part of the public sector, receive the same salary, starting at MAD 5,000 ($520) monthly, as teachers who are permanently on the government payroll but have reduced pensions.
Teachers have not held up their end of the contracts they signed, the government said.
Minister of Education Said Amzazi issued a statement earlier this month, explaining that teachers were informed of the contracts’ conditions before signing them.But contractual teachers are demanding equal treatment to their public sector counterparts.
Oussama Hamdouch, a 27-year-old member of the National Coordination of “the Forcibly Contracted Teachers,” spoke to Morocco World News about their demands and loopholes in the contracts.
Hamdouch said that the situation of the teachers has reached a critical and decisive moment.
“We are in a battle”
Hamdouch, who became a teacher when he signed a contract in 2018, said that the government has offered to change 14 articles of the contracts as a compromise.
He said that the Ministry of Education offered to change the teachers from “contractual teachers” hired under fixed terms to full employees of the regional academies of education.
The offer was unacceptable, teachers said.Regional academies do not have the ability to adopt all teachers, Hamdouch said.
“They lack the human and financial resources teachers need.”Morocco’s regional academies are not autonomous institutions and receive funding from the Education Ministry.
“The academies will be able to fire teachers if they don’t have financial resources whenever they want to. School principals will also have a certain authority over us. We want to work with dignity like the other teachers in the public sector,” Hamdouch told MWN.
Among the working conditions the contractual teachers are complaining about is the pension system.
Teachers working under contracts will only receive 40 percent of their monthly salary after retirement. If they receive MAD 10,000 while working, the teachers will receive MAD 4,000 monthly after retiring.
Debts, politics drive the issue
Hamdouch said that contractual teachers signed the contracts because they were not offered better job opportunities. “We had no choice. The job market is disappointing.”
Explaining why the group representing teachers calls themselves “forcibly contracted teachers,” Hammouch said, “If the government wants to increase the prices on gas cylinders, there will be protests, but people will buy anyways because of their need and lack of options.”
In 2016, the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance announced a joint decision to recruit teachers through contracts to offer job opportunities, to meet a need for teachers, and to improve human resources in education.
The Ministry did not respond to our calls for comment.
The unemployment rate in Morocco remains high, despite the slight year-on-year decrease from 10.2 percent to 9.8 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the Moroccan High Commission for Planning (HCP).
Morocco continues to borrow from international firms to complete socio-economic and infrastructure projects and cover its budget deficit.
HCP estimated that the overall public debt of the economy will increase to 82.5 percent of GDP in 2019.
Several senior officials have warned that rising external debt could negatively impact Morocco’s economy.
In 2018, the governor of the central bank, Bank Al Maghrib, Abdellatif Jouahri, said he expected external debt to rise to 16.6 percent of GDP in 2019, up from 13.8 percent of GDP in 2018.
He added that he refused to apply in 2016 when the government was looking for 10,000 candidates.
“I did not have a choice in 2018; I applied because there are no other options.”
One condition of the contract specifies that the teachers cannot seek to become public sector employees in the education sector for the duration of the contract, a key demand of the protesting teachers.
Good health coverage, bad pay
According to the contracts, teachers’ salaries can increase depending on the employee’s pay grade.
But the ministry did not respect some of the conditions in the contracts, teachers say.
The government should increase the salary for the contractual teachers by MAD 100 annually.
Every two years, the ministry should offer qualifying exams to evaluate the performance of teachers which could allow them to move to a higher pay grade.
Another teacher speaking on condition of anonymity, however, acknowledged that the teachers are offered good health coverage.
“The government introduced employment under fixed term contracts because of pressure from the World Bank,” Hamdouch said.
To handle mounting debts, the government has reduced its payroll obligations.
“The contracts make teachers feel unstable, disappointed, and deceived, he said.