Morocco police use water cannon to disperse teacher protest

RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan police used water cannons to disperse a protest by thousands of young teachers in Rabat, the capital, on Thursday, according to witnesses.

Around 65 protesters were injured, said Abdelwahab Ghallat, one of the organizers. "One teacher got seriously wounded," he said.

Authorities could not be reached for comment.

Teachers have been staging a series of protests and striking to demand an end to renewable contracts in favour of permanent jobs that offer civil service benefits, including a better retirement pension.

The protesters had arrived from several parts of the kingdom and tried to camp out in front of parliament until police dispersed then, witnesses said.

Education Minister Said Amzazi has threatened to sack teachers if they do not return to classrooms, saying the strike has affected 7 percent of Morocco’s 7 million students.

Morocco, which has avoided the turmoil seen by other countries during and after the Arab Spring of 2011, regularly sees protests though they rarely involve confrontations with police.

Some 55,000 teachers out of 240,000 in total have been hired on renewable contracts by regional education delegations since 2016 to address overcrowding in rural classrooms.

Morocco increased the education budget by 5.4 billion dirhams ($558.4 million) in 2019 to 68 billion dirhams as it seeks to boost access and improve infrastructure notably in hard to reach areas.

($1 = 9.6707 Moroccan dirham)

(Reporting by Zakia Abdennebi; writing by Ulf Laessing; editing by Leslie Adler and James Dalgleish)