By Khalid Boulbourj
”Integration or Blockage”, this is the motto of Moroccan contractual teachers, who despite their several protests, 6-day- strike, and sit-ins, have been systematically ignored by the ministry of education. The one demand that contractual teachers have been crying out since the protest of the 20th of February and even before is integration to the public sector, and henceforth, being able to enjoy the same rights as the employees of the ministry of education.
In 2016, and in response to a growing public indignation over overcrowdedness and lack of human resources to meet the increasing number of students enrolling in schools , the ministry of education sanctioned regional educational academies to announce entrance exams to meet their needs, namely hiring 70000 teachers over the course of three years from 2016 to 2019.
In 2016, 11000 contractual teachers were hired across the kingdom on a two-year contract. One of the contract’s many “discriminatory” clauses stipulates that it will be renewed automatically once the teachers take a qualification exam for another year. After two years, the contractual teachers appointed in 2016 didn’t take the qualification exam that would lead to the renewal of the contract with regional educational academies. Instead, they were shocked by the latter’s decision to put in an addendum to the first contract without consulting the second part of the deal, contractual teachers. The teachers considered this not only a stab to their backs but also a blatant and unlawful violation of the first contract. Shortly after, The Moroccan national coordination of the Teachers Forced into Contractual Teaching (Often abbreviated to CNPCC), known to be the only representative of contractual teachers in their struggle for integration, released a statement urging teachers to boycott signing the addendum and join their fellow-teachers in their struggle , exemplified in sits-in, protests and strikes, to achieve their major goal, integration to the public sector.
The success of contractual teachers’ boycott of the addendum and their strikes have sparked the outrage of officials. Many teachers state that in an effort to divide teachers’ ranks, regional educational academies didn’t pay the wages of 2016 teachers as menacing tact to force them into signing the add-on. Teachers also claimed that such retaliatory actions will only reinforce their conviction in the righteousness of their struggle against what they termed as a “ knot around the neck” (in reference to the contract they initially signed)
THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE TO THE DEMANDS OF CONTRACTUAL TEACHERS
After the 20th February protest that witnessed the presence of major national and international media outlets that covered in meticulous detail the massacre of contractual teachers that left many severely injured, the government’s spokesperson, Mustapha El Khalfi, expressed the government’s intention to listen and respond to the contractual teachers’ demands. Days later, a meeting was held between the members of the government, chaired by the prime minister, Saad El Othmani, to discuss the issue of contractual teachers. The post-meeting press release outlined the government’s willingness to modify some of the terms and clauses of the addendum and the Organic Law of the Employees of the Regional Educational Academies. Yesterday 9th of March, after a meeting with five Teacher unions, the ministry has expressed its determination to make several modifications, notable of which was the termination of the addendum. According to contractual teachers, these modifications are only polishing the image of the ministry and government by extension and don’t respond to the one and only demand that they have been seeking integration.
PUBLIC’S RESPONSE TO THE ISSUE OF CONTRACTUAL TEACHERS
Following the successful march of teachers, both permanent and contractual, public interest grew in this issue, especially after many teachers were unfortunately victims of a massacre led by police and auxiliary forces in an effort to disperse the crowds. The majority showed their sympathy and solidarity with teachers, who seemed to be heroes in their eyes, considering the fact that they stood firmly against the batons, water cannons, and overall terror that were used to discourage them.
Like any other issue, the righteousness of contractual teachers’ cause was once again put under the spotlight for public scrutiny. While many claim that the teachers knew and approved of the contract’s terms and clauses , others posit that occupations, such as teaching, should never be based on a fixed term contract and that they have every right to be integrated into the public sector, arguing that both, the Moroccan constitution and Organic Law of the Employees of the Ministry of Education, stipulate that Moroccans have the right to work in the public sector so long as they meet the requirements needed for the job. It is worth mentioning that before being appointed, Moroccan teachers are often required to sit for a written entrance exam, followed by an oral one, and undergo rigorous training.
A CONTRACT OR A KNOT AROUND THE NECK
The indignation of contractual teachers stems from what they have called discriminatory, unjust and arm-twisting clauses of the contract which are clearly intended to put teachers’ under the mercy of the headmasters and directors of regional educational academies or directorates. According to the Organic Law of the Employees of regional education academies, contractual teachers do not enjoy the same rights as those of permanent teachers, who are hired and are regulated by the Organic Law of the Employees of the Ministry of Education.
The third clause of the Organic Law regulating the work of contractual teachers offer sweeping , unlimited powers to superiors (headmasters of academies or directorates) who are authorized by virtue of the law to fire teachers without neither notice nor compensation after consulting with a committee , whose sole power is that of counseling, not executing or investigating. This particular clause has troubled teachers and lawmakers, considering the ambiguity of the language used.
Clauses 22 and 25 stipulate that if the contractual teacher is proven to be unfit for work due to an illness, the contractor (in this case the academy) has the right to fire the teacher without notice or compensation. Contractual teachers opposed rigorously this clause, arguing that the Organic Law of permanent teachers specifies that if a teacher is proven unfit for work due to an illness, the teacher shall have the right to early retirement with health care to cover their medical bills.
The abovementioned clauses are only instances of several inhuman, unjust clauses that have left contractual teachers no choice but to protect peacefully, strike, and organize sit-in , to simply be given their inherent rights.
Universally, all humans have the right to occupy a job regardless of their gender, race, ethnic belonging, sexual orientation or any other consideration that may stop them from having their inherent right. It is therefore only fair for Moroccan teachers to ask for their immediate integration given that they have the requirements and qualifications needed for such endeavor. Denying them the right to integration and enforcing upon them laws that only serve to enslave them or put a knot around their necks is a blatant violation of the Moroccan constitution, the Organic Law of the Employees of the Ministry of education. I may go as far as to call it systematic discrimination that is intended to divide the ranks of teachers and install categorization instead of solidarity and unity. Contractual teachers have kept their side of the bargain by working with extreme consciousnesses under dire circumstances. However, the ministry and its tails, educational academies and directorates have once again broken their promises and violated the laws they have designed themselves. Instead of offering contractual teachers their inherent right and apologizing to them for having tortured them psychologically through degrading laws and ill-treatment, they have decided to stop their wages. In an atmosphere where the trust between the governed and government is shaken or absent altogether, one cannot hope for a bright future because without trust, there can be no development.
NOTE TO READERS AND MY FELLOW TEACHERS
I have deliberately used the term “contractual” teachers repeatedly to somehow help the reader understand the psychological burden that such label weighs on teachers who were indeed forced into contractual teaching. Anyone would get the impression that such teachers are “second-degree” teachers in comparison with permanent teachers. However, I have always believed that they are as hard-working and willing to give as any other teacher. It is such division that has stopped this sector from improving. Therefore, I call on all teachers to respect others and use the term fellow-teacher because we are all suffering from the same problems and aspire to achieve the same goals. So, why should we be divided by inhuman labels?