Moroccan government appeals to teachers to protest peacefully

(CNN) — Thousands of disgruntled teachers are expected to descend on Rabat, Morocco’s capital, on Wednesday to protest the outcome of an earlier demonstration — in which they claim 65 colleagues were seriously injured in a battle with police.

The teachers union of Morocco claims that one injured protester died on Monday after “arriving in hospital on Saturday in a coma.”

They also claim that at least five suffered very serious injuries, including broken limbs.

The government says it has investigated the claims and dismissed them as folly.

Morocco’s Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui, who has not made a public statement about violence in Saturday’s protest, told CNN through a spokesman that the claims from the teachers of casualties were exaggerated:

“In reality only 17 were actually hurt, as most who went to hospital were just going there to get a doctor’s certificate,” the spokesman said. “It’s normal in Morocco that protesters exaggerate the figures of those hurt, or actual incidents.”

Saturday’s demonstration turned ugly when protesting teachers were caught up in a scuffle with police wielding plastic batons. In recent weeks, a wave of demonstrations have taken place, but violent clashes with the authorities are rare in the North African Muslim country, where freedom of speech is more accepted by the government than in other Arab countries. An earlier demonstration involving a youth movement in Casablanca on March 20 was peaceful with few police present.

On Wednesday, it is believed the teachers will be joined by other unions that have voiced support for their cause and their complaints of maltreatment. The teachers also say they intend to strike for two days.

But they are among many groups in Morocco attempting to throw a spotlight on their own grievances, chiefly poor pay. Moroccan teachers earn approximately between $370 and $623 (U.S.) per month.

“We want the minister (of education) to do something for promoting our rights and improving our conditions,” a spokeswoman, who asked to remain anonymous, explained from the union’s head office in Casablanca on Tuesday.

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