Keeping summer hours all year round, even in winter – meaning there would no longer be a changing of the clocks twice a year – is something the European Union is considering and which it is set to rule on by 2019. In Morocco, the government has already decided to go back to summer hours on a year-round basis, which has caused an outcry, particularly among schoolchildren and their parents.
Moroccans had expected to be going back to winter hours at the end of October, as they do every year, which would bring Moroccan time back in line with GMT rather than GMT+1, which is the case from May to October. But on October 26, the government suddenly decided to keep summer hours for the whole year. It justified the decision by saying it wanted to “avoid changes effected on numerous occasions throughout the year and their repercussions in various areas”, reported Morocco’s official news agency MAP.
Though fears had been expressed, particularly in the media, regarding the impact this change would have on the IT systems of various administrations, especially aviation, it is in the education sector that the reaction has been strongest. From November 12, six days after the end of the school holidays, the new hours were adopted. But as soon as November 7, when classes resumed, hundreds of pupils took to the streets in Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier and other cities throughout the kingdom, to show their disapproval of the government’s decision.
Demonstration by students of a vocational training centre in Casablanca, November 7.
Protest by pupils in Tangier on November 12, where they shout “The people want the fall of [summer] time”, based on the slogan “The people want the fall of the regime”, chanted in demonstrations throughout the Arab Spring.
The protests were supported by some teachers and parents of schoolchildren, who decried the way the government took a unilateral decision.
Abadallah (not his real name) is a member of a parents’ organisation in Tangier that denounced the decision. He is the legal guardian of his brother, an 18-year-old who is doing his final-year school exams this year.
The education ministry’s recommendations specify that the hours for schools would, instead of being from 8am to noon for the morning, as they have been before, be from 9am to 1pm, so classes don’t start too early, while the evening session would remain the same, from 2pm to 6pm.
Circular from the education ministry, informing schools they must adopt the new timetable, with classes beginning at 9am, from Monday November 12.
This decision brings about two problems: first of all, the hours of businesses have not changed, regardless of the fact that we are still on summer hours. How are workers, who continue to start their work day at 8.30am, as is the case for bank employees, supposed to take their children to school in the morning?
The second problem is the change in hours now means the lunch break has been cut from two hours to one. Many students now aren’t able to return home and get back again in just one hour. That means more expenses for families, because the kids will have to buy food, but also pose potential dangers for our children, who will have no place to stay during this break.
There is a disconnect between what those above us – who impose these decisions – want, and the reality on the ground. Most schools have no canteen or rooms to accommodate pupils between 1pm and 2pm. Moreover, our schools are struggling with overcrowded classrooms and a shortage of teachers. We were hoping that measures would be taken to deal with that in the new school year, rather than have the authorities cause mayhem. I heard in the media that this year would be a test run and the decision might not be permanent. I hope the ministry has a change of mind about it.