Thousands of contractual teachers in Morocco have launched a nationwide strike to protest the ongoing legal trials against some of their colleagues. More than 40 contractual teachers have been put on trial on charges such as “violating the state of a health emergency”, “insulting public authorities with the intent to harm their honor” and “insulting security forces”. The protesting teachers have termed the charges “made up accusations”. The authorities brought these charges in response to the persistent mobilizing by teachers in the country for the last four years. 10 of the contractual teachers charged reportedly stood trial in a court in Moroccan capital Rabat on Tuesday and are awaiting sentence.
The strike, the second one this month, is scheduled to last from May 9 to May 14. The protesting teachers have denounced the persecution of their colleagues by the authorities. Dozens of teachers reportedly held a sit-in protest in Marrakech in solidarity with the persecuted teachers. One of the teachers at the sit-in, Mustafa Kehma spoke to The New Arab on the issue saying that “in the time that teachers should be at their classes teaching students, they are now facing the court for nothing but the fact that they decided to take to the streets and protest their work conditions.”
Nezha Majdi, a teacher who was arrested and tried for one of the charges, has already been sentenced to three months in prison. Before her arrest, she reportedly told news outlets that the Moroccan police sexually assaulted her in the 48 hours following her arrest when she was held at five different police stations. The authorities reportedly did not conduct any investigations into her allegations against the police.
Teachers have been staging protests all these years to demand permanent secure jobs, better working conditions, and an increase in wages and other social benefits including pensions. Currently, teachers are being paid low salaries and pensions and do not have any job security due to the contractual nature of their employment. The root cause of the issue stems from a 2016 decision by the government to establish a ‘contractual system’ for hiring new teachers in public schools. This forced approximately 100,000 or more teachers to sign contracts with regional academies instead of being directly hired by the ministry of education as earlier.
Due to an acute lack of opportunities with widespread job losses and unemployment which currently stands at 12.7%, teachers say they have been forced to accept low-paying jobs. The government has repeatedly promised teachers that it will address the issue by introducing educational reforms but has so far failed to come up with any solution. Additionally, the protesting teachers are also imposed financial penalties ranging from USD 70 to USD 150 for each protest they hold, which is a significant percentage of the current salary of 5,000 Moroccan Dirhams (USD 500) earned by contractual teachers in the country.