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Morocco: united union front to defend public education against increasing privatisation

published 6 January 2017 updated 23 January 2017

Morocco's national education trade unions have mobilised in protest against rising privatisation, and specifically measures being introduced by the outgoing government which the unions believe are set to ‘destroy public education.’

SNE-CDT: Attempt to privatise education

Regional marches, sit-ins and a general strike were among the mobilisation strategies devised by the National Council of the Conseil national du Syndicat National de l'Enseignement-Confédération Démocratique du Travail(SNE-CDT), in Morocco. These strategies were outlined at a meeting in Casablanca on 5 November, under the slogan of “Social mobilisation to confront the State's plans aimed at destroying public education and eliminating the sector's teacher's and official's rights and prior gains”. The first action - regional marches across Morocco - was held on 18 December.

The union's governing body has also noted that the rise in conservatism “aimed at returning Morocco to an outdated crisis constitutes a threat to the values of democracy, human rights, freedom, tolerance and reason”.

According to the SNE-CDT, the education sector “is the victim of certain troubles and failures”, where “public education is bankrupt” as all temporary procedures and measures “are aimed at destroying public education to subsequently privatise it". These measures are also aimed at "eliminating” the rights and prior gains of the sector's teachers and officials. In addition, the union believes that recruitment of contract teachers will greatly harm public education and illustrates the state's abandonment of a public sector.

The SNE-CDT National Council announced that it would, among other things:

·         Consider Morocco's development needs require a comprehensive and full reform of the education system, which will require a political will on the part of the State

·         Refuse all procedures aimed at destroying public education in order to privatise it

·         Denounce “the cunning and unacceptable” method of recruiting on a contract basis under the pretext of saving the school year, in order to avoid the responsibility of guaranteeing professional and employment rights

·         Warn against attempts to affect free education, considering that the State must guarantee the right to education

SNE-FDT: Against financial contributions from families

“The end of free education in Morocco has angered the unions,” said Driss Salek, International Relations Manager at the Syndicat National de l'Enseignement-Fédération Démocratique du Travail(SNE-FDT). Salek is also a former representative for North Africa to the Board of the Comité syndical francophone de l’éducation et la formation(Francophone Union Committee for Education and Training), the structure that groups together Education International's francophone affiliates.

The SNE-FDT helped to organise the 18 December marches in Morocco's 12 academies, and formed a front to defend free education with the National Union of Higher Education.

Salek criticised the outgoing government's framework law aimed at “privatising social sectors such as education and healthcare” and which provides for families having to contribute financially to their children's studies. He stressed that this measure puts an end to free public education. The unions have rejected the framework law’s proposal to introduce tuition fees in secondary education and universities, stated Salek.

It was unfortunate, he said, that the Higher Council of Education, Training and Scientific Research (CSEFRS) welcomed the draft framework law. The unions of the CSEFRS believe there are other ways to finance education, rather than through family contributions. They argue that the draft framework law could have provided for a financial contribution from the boroughs, the creation of a special education support fund, or a voluntary contribution from private bodies and companies.

Salek noted that the unions were able to reduce the scope of this measure, by ensuring that the families' contributions, in the context of national solidarity, are not too high and correspond to their financial means. Some unions felt that the CSEFRS should have withheld judgement until a new government is appointed, as the next Executive could reverse this measure.

By adopting this measure, Salek underlined, “Morocco is in contradiction with other countries that encourage the strengthening of public education” particularly because, “for many Moroccans, and for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, public education is the only opportunity for upward social mobility enabling them to improve their situations”.