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[CAIRO] University professors in Morocco have been protesting over their work conditions and employment regulations, arguing that a lack of equipment is harming the quality of science education in the country.

Morocco's National Union of Higher Education, SNEsup, started a strike last week (9 November) and says it will end only when its demands are met.

The professors are calling for more scientific equipment and staff at universities; for French doctorates to be recognised as equivalent to Moroccan doctorates; and for teacher training colleges to be linked to universities.

Saïd Saaddine, a science professor at the Hassan II Mohammedia University, said the shortage of equipment and low number of professors in science teaching prevents Morocco's higher education system from producing a workforce skilful enough to meet the country's development needs.

"Professors are trying to teach practical courses empty-handed. We want to work. But at the same time, we need at least a minimum of resources," said Bahaa Rafiki, professor of earth sciences to the Magharebia news agency.

Since 1984, the French doctorate is the only foreign postgraduate degree in Morocco that is not recognised as equivalent to the national doctorate.

As a result, French PhDs — about 16 per cent of university teachers in Morocco — are employed as assistants, which means they do not have the right to supervise doctorate students or apply for senior lecturer posts until their degrees are legally recognised.

They started a hunger strike on 1 November, and so far 14 have been hospitalised.

"The French doctorate is the intermediary between the diploma of higher education and the state doctorate," said Jalil Bouabid, director of human resources and budgeting at the Higher Education Ministry. "Its scientific value is less than the state diploma," he told Magharebia news agency.

In an attempt to solve this issue, in a meeting held on 7 November with SNEsup's national bureau, the Education Ministry proposed that French doctorate holders sit competitive examinations to qualify for the level of professor.    

But SNEsup rejected the proposal and urged professors to continue to strike.

"The ministry should immediately have converted those concerned to the grade of professor without any other condition, save that of having four years experience as associate professor, " Mohamed Mahassine, president of the Moroccan Association of Qualified Teachers and Lecturers in French Universities told Magharebia news agency.