Moroccan school year begins with dire lack of resources

The CSE drew a bleak picture of the education sector that is bearing the brunt of social disparities in its annual report released at the end of August.
Saturday 07/09/2019
Khaled Ibn Al Walid primary school in Tetouan. (Saad Guerraoui)
Off to a bumpy start. Khaled Ibn Al Walid primary school in Tetouan. (Saad Guerraoui)

TETOUAN, Morocco - The new school year has started in Morocco with shortages of textbooks, bleak reports about social disparities in the education sector and a teachers’ protest over contracts.

Despite measures by the Moroccan Education Ministry to ensure a smooth start to the 2019-20 school year, levels 3 and 4 of primary education began classes September 5 without some textbooks because of shortages in the market.

About 25 of the 390 approved manuals had been revised, drawing anger from parents with limited income.

“It’s outrageous! Doesn’t the ministry think of the poor before changing the manuals?” asked a mother at a bookshop in the northern city of Tetouan.

“And now we have to wait for at least two weeks to get some manuals because of unavailability,” said Malika, the mother of an 8-year-old schoolchild.

Fouad Chafiqi, director of curricula at the Education Ministry, blamed publishers for the shortages. “There is no reason for a delay,” said Chafiqi, adding that publishers had enough time to provide the manuals.

Publishers argued that the delay was linked to the printing of manuals abroad because Moroccan printing companies were unable to meet the deadlines.

The Education Ministry adopted new programmes for levels 3 and 4 of primary education, especially in Arabic, French, maths, science and history-geography, as part of the 2015-30 strategic vision for the educational reform.

The vision, initiated by the Higher Council for Education (CSE), calls for the establishment of a school system based on equity, equality, opportunity and quality for all and the advancement of the individual and society.

The new programmes seek to allow Moroccan students to study content corresponding to educational developments at the international level, the Education Ministry said.

Book industry professionals vented their fury at the Education Ministry for changing textbooks without being consulted or given the opportunity to sell stocks of old books.

Hassan Kamoun, president of the association of booksellers of El Jadida and president of the Moroccan Association of the French Booksellers, questioned the ministry’s suppression five years ago of an article allowing booksellers to return stocks to publishers.

The CSE drew a bleak picture of the education sector that is bearing the brunt of social disparities in its annual report released at the end of August. An increasing number of students choose the private sector with 14% of the 7 million students enrolled during the 2016-17 school year in private education, which yields far better results than public education, the report stated.

It warned that social disparities, poverty and inadequate redistribution of income were hampering some students from receiving a quality education. The CSE called for a school development model based on social justice three years after the introduction of the 2015-30 strategic vision for the educational reform.

The Moroccan government has spent billions of dollars on educational reform efforts.

Arabisation of education, which took place in Morocco in the 1980s to boost conservatives and Islamists against a strong leftist current, played an important part in the sector’s chronic failure.

Four days before the start of the new school year, teachers working on a contractual basis without a path to permanent employment staged a protest in Rabat, calling on the Education Ministry to fulfil its promises by ending the contractual procedure of hiring and improving the image of public education.

Experts said they expect more strikes to raise pressure on the ministry, whose regional education delegations have hired some 55,000 teachers on renewable contracts since 2016 to address overcrowding in rural classrooms.

Mohammed Youssfi, vice-secretary-general of the National Federation of Teachers, said contracted teachers “are claiming their legitimate and constitutional right” to an indefinite employment contract.

“Unfortunately, after two successive talks, the ministry did not get the lesson and understand that it is necessary to give these teachers their rights,” Youssfi said.

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