Professional Insertion of Blind Teachers in Morocco

by Mounir Kheirallah

In spite of its efforts to promote youth employment and professional training, the Moroccan Government currently gives insufficient importance to the employability of disabled people.

Neither in the public nor private sectors are disabled people adequately employed, even though they represent 5.12% of the Moroccan population: 1.530.000 people according to the 2004 National Survey on Disability (NSD). To promote employment, Morocco creates each year new job opportunities in the public administration and allocates significant funds to implement professional training programmes in order to make new employees more acquainted with administrative procedures and processes. In such a dynamic market, the private sector is also urged to recruit new workers with outstanding profiles and to improve their productivity via a number of in-service training curricula. However, the employability of people with disabilities does not gain the attention of decision-makers and employers in these initiatives. On the contrary, Morocco has yet fully to respect its international commitments, having ratified in April 2008 the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People and its Optional Protocol (UNCRPD).

The unemployment rate for disabled people in Morocco is 5 times the equivalent for people without disabilities, according to a report released in 2011 by the Economic and Social Council. The National Survey on Disability of 2004 estimates that more than 55.2% of people with disability were unemployed, while in 2003, the level of unemployment did not exceed 11.9% of those without disabilities.

In addition, disabled people who have managed to secure a job, particularly in the public sector, are subject to different forms of exclusion and discrimination throughout their professional lives. People who are blind or visually impaired experience the most acute forms of discrimination due to the nature of their deficiency which deprives them from working with printed papers and restricts their contribution to the development of the public administration. In this context, this paper will examine what initiatives are taken by the authorities to promote the professional inclusion of blind employees, focusing specifically on the case of the Ministry of National Education and Professional Training.

Why focus on this issue?

This subject is important because of the lack of interest that has characterized for many decades governmental action towards people with disability as a social category in Morocco.

For a long time, handicap has been tackled through traditional approaches in public policy-making. Disability is considered as a health deficiency or a corporal dysfunction reducing the participation of the individual and preventing him or her from accomplishing a number of tasks. The limits of this approach are that it does not take into account the environmental barriers or the socio-cultural attitudes restraining the movement and the participation of people in their communities. Instead of taking responsibility for addressing this problem in different ways, the public authorities create philanthropic organizations to look after those seen as helpless, rather than active members of society, whenever is possible.

Due to the lack of statistics and scientific studies relating to this issue, the inclusion of disabled people requires a change in perception as well as approach. This paper aims to help promote an understanding of the reality of employees who are blind or visually impaired and bring about positive change in giving them a better chance to contribute to the development of their country. According to a study conducted by the Collective for the Promotion of the Rights of Disabled People in 2008, Morocco loses more than 9.2 million MAD each year due to excluding people with disabilities from the job market.

This amount is equal to 2 percentage points of the Gross Domestic Product of the country.

After 2008, more than 540 blind persons were recruited to the public sector, 100 of whom were placed in the Ministry of National Education. Since that time, no official follow-up has been conducted to assess the professional evolution of these people, as well as the facilities introduced in their place of work to improve their productivity and their personal satis- faction on equal footing with their colleagues.

More light now needs to be shed on different aspects of disabled people’s lives and their societal participation. This issue should be of importance to any researcher interested in the future of Morocco, not only those with disabilities.

Key Stakeholders

The key partner in this issue is the Moroccan government, and in particular two ministries:

The first is the Ministry of Solidarity, Family and Social Development as it has to put a national plan in place to promote the professional training for people with different disabilities in all sectors in order to improve their social participation and well-being.

The second is the Ministry of National Education & Professional Training as it should implement a comprehensive strategy not only to respond to the needs of disabled teachers and professionals but also to adapt schools and professionals to pupils and students with disabilities. More particularly, the training centres have to be adapted to the specific needs of teachers with different types of disability including visual impairment.

There are several non-governmental stakeholders that are important. One of the key stakeholders is The Alaouit Organization for the Promotion of Blind in Morocco (OAPAM); OAPAM is also concerned with this problem because it is the only school recruiting almost all blind teachers in Morocco.

Equally important are professional unions working in the field of education, which should advocate for the right professional insertion of blind teachers.

Legislation relating to disabled people in Morocco

One year after the declaration of 1981 as the International Year of Disabled People by the United Nations, the Moroccan parliament promulgated the first law in favour of people with disabilities, the law 05-81. Concerning only people who are blind or visually impaired, the scope of this law was very restricted, only outlining some rights for those in this social category but

not guaranteeing them.

On the 13th of September 1993, the Moroccan parliament passed a new law in favour of people with disability, law 07-92, which went further than the previous law in making no distinction between people of different disabilities. However, as previously, this law was ambiguous in its statement of a set of general rights without precision. For instance, in article 19,this law defines a limited set of occupations which are judged to be suitable for disabled people. Such a restriction in fact contributes to discrimination against people with disabilities.

According to this law for example, regardless of his or her professional skills and ambitions, a person who is blind or visually impaired can only work as phone operator.

Furthermore, article 20 provides for a proportion of jobs in the public and semi public administrations, and the private sector be reserved for disabled persons via a decree. Accordingly a prime ministerial decree specifies the proportion of 7% of jobs to be allocated to disabled people. Nevertheless, the way this proportion is to be calculated is totally unclear, making the enforcement of this law extremely difficult to gage.

In 2003, Morocco adopted the law 10-03 of 12 May 2003 relating to accessibilities for disabled people. This law admits that handicap is an issue that concerns the society as a whole. Different societal forces have to collaborate to eradicate all barriers preventing the inclusion of disabled people be they environmental, social, cultural, physical or economic.

Accordingly, the public authorities have to take all necessary measures to make buildings and facilities accessible for disabled persons. The law also introduced regulations governing construction and the provision of facilities in favour of disabled people. However, in Article 29, the law excluded public buildings built before the year 2003. The biggest deficiency of the law is that it did not include any penalties for those who violate these stipulations.

The constitution of 2011 and People with Disabilities

The year 2011 was a turning point in the history of people with disabilities in Morocco. In the wake of the Moroccan version of the democratic spring and taking into account the participation of people with disabilities in the up-risings and protests through the movement of MADOUZCHBLABINA which means literally ‘it can’t work without us’, Morocco was offered a new constitution presented as being advanced and unique in the region. For the first time in its history, the supreme law of the country consolidates the rights of people with disabilities. In its preamble, this constitution forbids any kind of discrimination linked to handicap; moreover, it calls on the authorities to harmonize Moroccan legislation with all the international conventions ratified by the country including the convention on the rights of disabled people.

In its article 34, the constitution stipulates that the public authorities should elaborate new public policies relating to people with disabilities. However, 3 years on, no public policy has been implemented relating to this social category, and nor have existing laws been amended to match the spirit of the UN convention(s).

General recommendations

With regard to how to proceed to promote the full participation of people with disabilities, the issue has to be seen in the light of providing an opportunity for the development of Morocco at several levels, over and above the issue of people with disabilities themselves.

On the economic level, the provision of professional training for blind/disabled employees will undoubtedly benefit Morocco in terms of making the most of already recruited personnel to develop the public administration, but will also save the state as much as the 9.2 million MAD it currently costs to exclude disabled people from the job market.

On the social level, integrating well-trained disabled employees in the workplace would alter social perceptions about these people and reduce social barriers between disabled and

non-disabled citizens.

Furthermore, if Morocco were to follow through on its constitutional obligations, through the promulgation of a law and a rights-backed national strategy relating to disabled people, it would improve the reputation of Morocco in this sphere at the international level, above all with international institutes and funders like the World Bank. In this respect, it is worth mentioning that before 2008, the Moroccan government, working with civil society organisations, deployed great efforts in drafting the law 09.62, relating to the rights of people with disabilities. Therefore, to promulgate and implement this law would be a cost-effective way to implement one of the 2011 constitution’s provisions, namely to harmonize national legislations with the UN conventions ratified by Morocco.

General recommendations

With regard to how to proceed to promote the full participation of people with disabilities, the issue has to be seen in the light of providing an opportunity for the development of Morocco at several levels, over and above the issue of people with disabilities themselves.

On the economic level, the provision of professional training for blind/disabled employees will undoubtedly benefit

Morocco in terms of making the most of already recruited personnel to develop the public administration, but will also save the state as much as the 9.2 million MAD it currently costs to exclude disabled people from the job market.

On the social level, integrating well-trained disabled employees in the workplace would alter social perceptions about these people and reduce social barriers between disabled and non-disabled citizens.

Furthermore, if Morocco were to follow through on its constitutional obligations, through the promulgation of a law and a rights-backed national strategy relating to disabled people, it would improve the reputation of Morocco in this sphere at the international level, above all with international institutes and funders like the World Bank. In this respect, it is worth men-

tioning that before 2008, the Moroccan government, working with civil society organisations, deployed great efforts in drafting the law 09.62, relating to the rights of people with disabilities. Therefore, to promulgate and implement this law would be a cost-effective way to implement one of the 2011 constitution’s provisions, namely to harmonize national legislations with the UN conventions ratified by Morocco.

Professional training is the main building block for promoting the rights of disabled persons, since once recruited, employers expect the employee (disabled or not) to be capable of assuming his or her responsibilities immediately, and to contribute to productivity especially in an era of recession.

Different public administrations should also involve disabled/blind employees in all in-service training or provide tailored programmes for them.

Specific recommendations

As far as education is concerned, a focused attempt to address professional training for blind teachers would in fact be a first step towards the larger goal of providing an appropriate edu-

cation for blind students so that they can get the same quality of education offered to their sighted peers.

The first step toward this goal would be for the Ministry of Education to take charge of the promotion of all special institutes for disabled/blind persons, and for these institutions to be fully-registered educational establishments instead of charitable NGOs as they are now. To this end, the Ministry should provide professional and specially-trained teachers with the facilities they need, including relevant and freely provided software. Civil society organizations representing the disabled and blind could contribute to list of all the different computer software currently designed for people with visual impairment.

Next, in order to reduce the illiteracy rate for people with disabilities, especially women in mountains and rural areas, there is an urgent need to prepare district mainstream schools for receiving blind/disabled pupils, including blind Sub-Saharan migrants and those belonging to different ethnic minorities.

With this objective in mind, public schools should be provided with teachers trained in special educational needs and assistive materials derived from free screen readers like Non Visual

Device Access (NVDA).

Teacher training centres could also contribute to this process by including in their curriculums special educational needs modules in order to initiate all teachers and educational professionals in some of the techniques and best practices on teaching disabled people. At the same time, the Ministry should take all the necessary measures to allow disabled/blind graduate students to enrol in these centres for all subjects by arranging suitable conditions for them to take exams and to

pursue their professional training.

In order to increase the number of professionals in this field, the Ministry of Higher Education could also introduce Masters and postgraduate degrees in special educational needs at the public universities, together with the necessary adapted facilities in order to be accessible for students with disabilities.

For instance, in 2013, the university of Makeni in Sierra-Leone started a course in special educational needs. The aim of the course is to raise the achievement and promote the inclusion of children and young people with visual impairment in Sierra Leone. This aim will be achieved by providing qualified teachers with basic knowledge, understanding and skills to enable them to provide effective teaching and support to these children. It would be beneficial to adopt the approach of Sierra-Leone, as well as other comparative examples, as a pilot in some Moroccan universities, such as the Faculty of Science of Education in Mohammed V University in Rabat.

Concerning the professional insertion of blind teachers, our focus in this paper, the Ministry of National Education and OAPAM decision-makers can deal with it on several levels:

First, the Ministry should start in-service training programs to build up skills for blind teachers through a series of workshops about basic teaching techniques and approaches and best practices. In order to reduce the economic cost of these actions, teacher-training centres can support such training sessions by the provision of resources and professionals, especially in cities where these centres and OAPAM institutes are both located.

Likewise, it will be useful to encourage the OAPAM institutions to host some of these training sessions in order to enhance communication between OAPAM schools and their entourage. It is worth mentioning that the Moroccan British Society (MBS) is conducting a project to develop “education and training for the benefit of blind and visually impaired students in Morocco”. The long-term aim of the project is to support the overall development of education and training for blind and visually impaired students in Morocco so that they can achieve the same level and range of educational and training opportunities as their sighted peers and go on to gain and retain employment. In Shoof project, the MBS chooses to focus on the short term goal which is to start series of training sessions for blind teachers in different OAPAM institutes.

It would be a good start to collaborate with the MBS in Shoof project as a pilot experience in order to support special education in Morocco.

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