Student organisations mobilise to help earthquake victims

The National Union of Moroccan Students (Union Nationale des Etudiants du Maroc or UNEM) has called upon the student and university community to help victims of Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in decades.

A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Morocco’s central province of Al Haouz on 8 September, killing more than 2,100 people and injuring thousands more, according to reported official figures. The epicentre, which was 72km south-west of Marrakech, damaged buildings, from villages in the Atlas Mountains to the historic city of Marrakech. It was felt as far north as Casablanca.

Education schedules at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech have been disrupted. The university’s faculty of Arabic language has announced the postponement of the start of in-person classes to 18 September, while the university’s faculty of arts and human sciences has delayed classes for students in their third and fifth semesters as well as the new student integration week until 18 September.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), earthquakes of that size are uncommon in the region “but not unexpected. Since 1900, there have been nine M5 and larger earthquakes, none of which are over M6”.

Online footage shows buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakech damaged.

Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, Abdellatif Miraoui, said in a statement on 9 September: “I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims, with my wishes for a speedy recovery for all the injured.”

Student response

UNEM, which belongs to Morocco’s largest Islamic movement, Al Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity), issued condolences in a statement on 9 September and called for “intensifying efforts from various official and non-official bodies and civil society to provide the necessary support to those affected”.

In a later statement, UNEM called upon “all members of branch offices and all students in all Moroccan universities to visit hospitals and blood transfusion centres to donate blood for the benefit of the injured and wounded”.

In response to the UNEM call, the Settat branch of UNEM organised a blood donation drive at a regional hospital in the city.

The Progressive Left Student Faction of the National Union of Moroccan Students, which belongs to the Democratic Path Party of Morocco, also issued a statement calling for students to donate blood, participate in fundraising and offer medical assistance to victims.

“We call on medical students, pharmacists, and nurses to provide medical assistance and go to the affected areas under the supervision of the competent authorities,” it said. “We need your solidarity and cooperation now more than ever. Let us make this earthquake an opportunity to come together and bring relief to those who need it.”

Dr Abdennasser Naji, a former adviser to the minister of higher education and president of the Amaquen Institute, an education think tank, told University World News, he had not heard of any “damaging effect on universities”.

However, Dr Abdellah Benahnia, a part-time international researcher and professor at the Superior Institutions of Science and Technology, an associate college of Cardiff Metropolitan University in Casablanca, told University World News he “spent the night on the street” owing to tremors felt in that area that discouraged people from sheltering indoors.


In a 9 September message of solidarity, the General Union of Tunisian Students (GNTS) said: “Our absolute solidarity with the Moroccan people in the face of the natural disaster that befell them, especially to the families of the victims and the injured.”

GNTS also called upon “Maghreb, Arab, and international organisations, bodies, and peoples to launch a broad solidarity campaign with the Moroccan people”.

The University of New England (UNE) said their campus located in Tangier was not impacted by the earthquake. UNE President James Herbert released a statement saying, “I am devastated to learn about the earthquake in Morocco, though I am grateful that our students, faculty and professional at UNE’s campus in Tangier were not impacted by this disaster.”

He said several of the UNE’s students in Tangier had volunteered to donate blood and complete other charitable acts, and encouraged people to contribute to relief efforts.

Academic and student communities from higher education institutions around the world continue to express their sympathy and support for victims of the quake.