In a significant development in Morocco, education unions have succeeded in stopping government support for private schools during the COVID-19 public health crisis. They went one step further and were able, through strategic alliances with members of the national parliament, to prosecute those who have fraudulently exploited the crisis.
Education International (EI) and education unions in Morocco have secured a significant success in the fight against the privatisation and commercialisation in and of education. Recent collaboration has halted a move at end-March by a federation of private schools to secure financial support from the newly established COVID-19 Crisis Fund.
In addition, the federation also sought an exemption from paying private sector education workers’ salaries in case parents refused to pay fees. And it asked for the abolition of contributions to the National Social Security Fund and attempted to negotiate tax exemptions for the current year.
Education unions in Morocco informed Education International (EI) that these requests were unsubstantiated, and that the same private schools were forcing parents to pay tuition fees even though the schools were closed.
Indeed, a significant number of private schools have not been providing any online education, support or follow-up to students, in comparison to schools in the public sector.
All these developments took place while public education workers in Morocco demonstrated their solidarity with the most affected by the crisis. Their trade unions mobilised members to donate three days’ worth of wages over three months to the national COVID-19 solidarity fund. Other public sectors followed their example, notably the health sector.
In an official letter to the Prime Minister of Morocco, EI and its Moroccan affiliates urged him to ensure that no profiteering from this public health crisis be tolerated. They also urged the government to distance itself from private education providers that only deepen inequality and segregation in the country.
EI also called for the protection of the terms and conditions of employment of all education workers during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
It supported its Moroccan affiliates in their efforts to step up their campaign against the privatisation and commercialisation in and of education, and to maintain their activities during the current crisis.
Through the unions’ strategic alliance with parliament members, the issue of the private schools’ profiteering activities was raised. As a result, the Minister of Economy, Finance and Administrative Reform rejected all requests from the federation of private schools during a parliamentary hearing.
The Labour Minister also declared that private schools that had laid off teachers or relegated them to technical unemployment and requested financial support while parents were still paying tuition fees, would be prosecuted.
The education unions’ involvement in the fight to defend quality public education was widely covered by local media and showed the significant role unions continue to play during the COVID-19 crisis. This also triggered huge support for them from public opinion in Morocco.
Some members of parliament have even sent requests to the government to nationalise private schools and to invest in free quality public education.
EI’s Moroccan affiliates expect that this crisis will force many private schools to close. Meanwhile, they are determined to continue their fight against the privatisation and commercialisation in and of education in the country.
EI’s study highlights inequality of private education
This comes in the context of research that EI, in partnership with the unions, had already commissioned, entitled Privatisation of Education in Morocco – A Multi-Speed Education System and a Polarised Society (in French).
The study, published in January 2020, clearly shows that favouring private over public education provision has deepened inequity and segregation, and has informed the work and actions taken by affiliates in the field so far.
A summary of this study is available here