Medical students keep up protests over rural service

In spite of warnings and a conciliatory gesture by Morocco’s Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, medical students maintained pressure on the government by staging a mass demonstration against proposed legislation to make them carry out two years’ compulsory service in the countryside.

The organisers claimed that 5,000 demonstrators marched in the capital Rabat from the Ministry of Health to Parliament, reported Libération of Casablanca.

They carried banners and chanted slogans against the draft law and against strong-arm intervention by police during the previous week, and demanded better working conditions.

Libération said the government was committed to not submitting the bill without the agreement of representatives of students and the junior hospital doctors who supported them. But a student spokesperson confirmed they would not end the protest movement until a final agreement was concluded and officially signed.

Khadija Briki, a representative of Moroccan dental students, said they were supporting the medical students and junior doctors without knowing whether the draft law concerned them too, or not, reported Libération.

Charaf Ziane, leader of medical students in Marrakesh, said the protest movement united all medical students and demanded increased working allowances, improvements in conditions of training, an increase in the number of junior doctor posts and a rise in salaries, reported Libération.

It quoted Alaa Issaoui, a member of the Coordination Nationale des Étudiants en Médecine au Maroc, who told the news agency AFP that “the proposed compulsory service aims at exploiting medical graduates for two years, then dropping them into the unknown without their having been employed or taken the competitive exams [for a post]”.

Libération reported that the prime minister had warned students the previous week that “studying is a right guaranteed by the law”; that government “will take measures to protect the right of those who want access to classrooms and to the different [university] services”; and that “those who wish to attend their courses must have the opportunity to do so, in the same way those who wish to strike and put at risk their future in medicine are free to do so”.

But, Libération said, when his crackdown did not have the desired results, owing to the students’ determination to continue action until their claims were met, Benkirane attempted to lower the tension by meeting representatives of medical students at his residence, rather than at his prime ministerial headquarters.

But the students did not fall for his tricks, as witnessed by the massive attendance at the demonstration, said the paper.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.