Moonlight gets blackout

February 2, 2001

Morocco has barred second jobs for academics, but Hassan Bouzidi says dons find it hard to make ends meet

A new law that has barred Moroccan university teachers from having a job outside teaching hours is damaging academics' standards of living and denting their morale.

A large number of academics take part-time jobs. Many work in the private education sector, with jobs ranging from setting up a kindergarten to giving private lessons in maths or English.

In some cases, academics' part-time jobs bear no relation to their specialist fields - it is not uncommon for a university teacher to own a telephone kiosk, for example. Others broker property sales in public cafés.

The need for extra income has been driven by a large rise in the cost of living during the 1980s and 1990s. Academics were forced to subsidise their salaries, which average about $700 a month. In many cities, half this amount is needed to cover rent alone. The last salary increase, in 1998, was too little to cover soaring costs.

Working conditions in universities are deteriorating: most buildings are in disrepair, and office space is a luxury that is beyond the means of most state-funded universities.

Textbooks are a rare commodity. Much material used by students and lecturers consists of photocopies of books, most of which have long been out of print.

The law barring academics from working outside university jars with the higher education ministry's guidance, which states that universities should establish links with local industries and try to generate funding.

As justification for introducing the law, the government has said that university teachers are occupying jobs that could be filled by the unemployed, many of whom are graduates.

The government also perceives members of staff working outside the university as having little commitment to academia. The measure is designed to curb what the government sees as growing aloofness and absenteeism among academics.

There is mounting pressure on academics to update teaching methods and to produce articles for publication. But the research grants to do so are scarce.

In many universities, the situation is grave. Academics squabble at the end of each year over who gets a department's single $500 airline ticket available for visits to universities abroad.

In such a climate, it is no surprise that academics have chafed under the law. Some have had to sell businesses for fear of losing their regular salaries. Others have decided they have no choice but to carry on under assumed names.

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