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In Morocco, medical students find an agreement with the government


After five months of strikes, the authorities accepted fifteen of the sixteen claims, but refused to forbid private students from entering the public competition of the residanat.

Medical students demonstrate in Rabat on October 28, 2015. FADEL SENNA / AFP

The benches of the public faculties of medicine, dental surgery and pharmacy will again fill up in Morocco. After more than five months of strikes and boycotts of classes and exams, the students reached a written agreement with the executive. "The signing process began this Wednesday, August 28," said Hamza Karmane, a member of the National Commission for Medical Students (CNEM). Between two meetings that lasted all day, he said: "It was not our interest, nor that of the country, to make a year white. Once the agreement is finally signed, the students have planned to resume classes and cancel the national march scheduled for September 1 in Rabat.

The mobilization began on March 25th. Most of the student claims were related to training and infrastructure: increased positions in the competition of internal doctors, reduction of equipment fees paid by dental students, compulsory health insurance system ... "This dissatisfaction comes from a lack of and effective government measures, which tripled the number of students in 2006 and pushed university professors out of the public service, "said Jamal Sebbani, secretary general of the National Union of Higher Education (SNESup).

Read also More than 300 doctors announce their collective resignation in Morocco

In June, the ministries of higher education and health had declared in a statement that they would "implement fourteen points agreed with student representatives" on the sixteen student claims. Yet the crisis has bogged down. Three teachers were even suspended in mid-June for failing to meet their professional commitments or for supporting the boycott of the exams, according to the protesters.

"Respect the principle of equal opportunities"

After several days of negotiation, the CNEM submitted to the student vote a final agreement on August 26, in which fifteen of the sixteen claims were accepted by the line ministries. Among the latest advances, "the elimination of the sixth year of studies in dentistry until the conditions of training during this last year are unveiled". Result: 52% of students voted against this agreement, 48% for. "We decided to rule and stop the boycott. Only 20% of students in the country participated in the vote and the results were not decided, " says Hamza Karmane, who faces a number of disgruntled.

Only one claim has not been answered: the prohibition of private faculties students to pass the public examination of residanat, accessible after the eighth year of medicine to specialize. In June, the spokesman of the government, Mustapha El Khalfi, affirmed his "determination to respect the principle of equal opportunities between all students and Moroccan doctors, without any discrimination".

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Concessions have however been made on both sides. "Certainly, we have accepted that students from the private sector pass this competition, but provided that there is sufficient training grounds and discussions remain open," says Hamza Karmane, who does not want to give up. The CNEM has already succeeded in getting the private students banned from taking the public internship competition in the fifth year.

On this point, public and private students are divided, while private faculties have multiplied in recent years to overcome the lack of doctors in Morocco. In this kingdom of 36 million people, there are 7.3 doctors per 10,000 people, against 23 recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). "We are not against the private sector if it fills the gaps of the public. But their training must be parallel, their competitions too, " asks Hamza Karmane, who fears unfair competition while private students have better training conditions.

Fear of privatization of education

For their part, private students would find it unfair to be excluded from a state competition, which would deprive them of certain specialties. "We find that it is a lack of equal opportunities, while our competitions are open to all," insists Ali Taleb, president of the student office of the private university Mohammed VI of health sciences, recalling that their diplomas are equivalent. "We are proposing instead to abolish the internship competition and to organize national classifying events for access to the specialty," continues the student.

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But it is also the danger of a privatization of the teaching of medicine brandished by the CNEM. "We do not want in fifteen years, Moroccans are forced to enroll their children in a private faculty to ensure good training and access to specialties," anticipates Hamza Karmane. A fear shared by Abderrazak Drissi, Secretary General of the National Federation of Education (FNE): "Because of public-private partnerships, human resources, infrastructure and training grounds in UHC are operated by the private sector. "

Criticizing a politicization of the file, Ali Taleb refuses to speak of private faculty but rather of institution "semi-public". "Our universities are part of a non-profit foundation and public utility, we have no shareholders who reap profits," he says. Pending final determination on the contest of the residanat, the agreement in principle between students and government allows to begin to fix a calendar, with retrospective exams staggered and a possible return in November.

Théa Ollivier (Casablanca, correspondence)

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Source: lemonde

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