Prime minister cuts short speech after student protest

Morocco’s Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane had to abandon a speech at the HEM Business School in Oujda when students in the audience interrupted him with boos and protests against brutality by police who had beaten up demonstrating trainee teachers.

Benkirane had been invited to address students at the Oujda campus of the Casablanca-based independent Institut des Hautes Études de Management, on the theme of an ‘open letter to the young people of Morocco’, reported Libération. The audience included invited trainee teachers from outside.

The prime minister highlighted measures he was taking to balance the economy, promote Moroccan businesses and improve the relationship between citizens and the government, according to a Maghreb Press Agency release quoted by Libération.

But members of the audience became restive during his speech, and some started displaying photographs of teacher trainees who had been beaten up by police in several towns in recent months, and waving signs calling on Benkirane to resign.

Faced with the extent of the students’ protests the prime minister called for intervention by the police, reported Libération.

Members of Benkirane’s political party, the PJD, condemned the protesters on Facebook, describing them as ‘baltajia’, or hooligans.

Student gripes

Libération reported the trainees had grievances against two government orders.

The first created a clear separation between their training and their recruitment as teachers, so after they had been trained in dedicated centres they were obliged to take a competitive examination to enter the public service sector.

The second concerned the halving of their monthly grants, from 2,454 dirhams (US$252) to 1,200 dirhams.

The trainees had been holding strikes and demonstrations against the orders for some months when in January protesters were beaten by police with batons in Casablanca, Tangier, Marrakech, Fes, Oujda and Inezgane, reported the Al Huffington Post Maghreb Maroc.

Coordination nationale des enseignants stagiaires des centres régionaux d’éducation et de formation à Oujda, the organisation representing the trainee teachers, issued a statement denying that they had interrupted Benkirane’s HEM speech, reported Libération.

The statement said the trainees had been invited to attend the gathering, and when Benkirane was speaking they had peacefully displayed the photos of their colleagues who had been victims of police repression.

But when the prime minister had spoken some “protesters had intervened to shout loudly their legitimate grievances which heightened the tension. The trainee teachers tried to calm things down”.

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