10,000 to 15,000 teachers gathered in the capital of Morocco, Rabat, to demonstrate against a controversial contract system and to demand full employment rights.
Over the course of the weekend, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 teachers held overnight protests in the capital of Morocco, Rabat. The protests were concentrated around the Moroccan Parliament and the Moroccan Ministry of Education, with the teachers demanding an end to the contract system that allows them to be hired and dismissed in short term. Although the system allows the state to cut costs and resolve staffing shortages relatively quickly, it also subjects contract teachers to lower pay, greater uncertainty while also hampering the quality of the public education system.
The protest movement by the country’s teacher’s is not a new development. Teacher’s unions and groups have been demanding a change to the system for months and have held smaller sit-ins and protests in the past. However, the protests over the weekend were some of the largest protests to take place in recent months and hosted teachers not just from the city but from across Morocco.
For most part, the protests were peaceful. However, tensions arose when the teachers demanded to hold a sit-in in front of the Parliament. After appeals by the police to not hold the sit-in were ignored, riot police engaged the protesters using water canons and batons, resulting in scuffles across the streets at night. Despite this, protesters returned the next day, pressing on with their demands to be instated as full-time employees.
The protests are symptomatic of a number of structural problems Morocco faces. Although one of the most diversified and robust economies in North Africa, the country nevertheless suffers from an aging and under-resourced education sector. Beyond this, protests over working conditions are common in the country, with mass protests taking place over the conditions in the country’s mines last year. Before then, the gruesome death of a fisherman in October 2016 sparked mass protests that soon turned into protests about police brutality and the treatment of the Berber population. As such, it will be interesting to see whether these protests may shift to or otherwise inspire protests for more general reforms.
The protests also come at a sensitive time when Morocco’s neighbour and rival, Algeria, also remains in the grip of protests. Although the source of the protests are vastly different, both countries are suffering from similar public sector issues and the demands of the protesters – fair treatment by the government, gainful employment and transparency – are broadly similar.