Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sorbonne, Shmorbonne

I'm a sucker for a hunger strike. Anyone who is willing to systematically starve themselves to death for anything other than a (sub) zero dress size always gains my respect. Growing up, it never occurred to me that anyone would want to - or even could - just stop eating & die. I guess I thought that it was like holding your breath: eventually you'd just give up or pass out. All that changed for me 25 years ago (I so love dating myself) with Bobby Sand's successful hunger strike while incarcerated in HM Prison Maze.

His demands were rather simple but didn't have a snowball's chance in Hell of being adopted; namely the right
1) not to wear a prison uniform;
2) not to engage in prison work;
3) to freely associate with other prisoners;
4) to organise their own educational & recreational facilities;
5) to one weekly visit, letter and parcel.

Although Sands was able to successfully run for public office during the course of his strike, he ultimately died 66 days after he began fasting. Or starving himself. Whatever.

Now as it turns out, there is a group of university instructors in Morocco who are also waging a hunger strike against the government & their own gastrointestinal systems. Their beef? - for the past 2 decades, the Moroccan government has refused to recognize their French doctorates. It would seem that their PhD's aren't worth the parchment that they're printed on. If I were a sheep, I'd be pissed.

"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 added.

Interestingly, Morocco recognizes the doctorates of other nations, but as a potential elevator-rider in this country, I would take greater comfort knowing that the engineer who separated me from a 50 meter drop to certain death was educated in Paris rather than in, say, Togo. God almighty, go ahead and exhume Abelard if you must - I don't give a rat's ass that his field was Aristotelian logic - I'd still rather have him build my elevator.

The corollary to this is that Moroccans in possession of these spurious degrees - undoubtedly created on Photoshop by an expat for a litre of argan oil or a jar of preserved lemons - can neither supervise doctoral candidates nor rise above the rank of assistant professor. The government has countered with a "compromise" which will allow these black sheep pedants to engage in competitive examinations to prove their mettle. The government is fully confident that these poseurs will fail since they were probably eating runny cheese, poking a tentative fork at snails, and quaffing bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau when they should have been attending lectures in Data Structures and Numerical Methods. The response has been to sod off. Nor can I blame them.

"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, in accordance with the law of 1975."

Ya think?

Fourteen of the strikers have already been hospitalised, while another two have had the unhappy fate of seeing the inside of a Moroccan Emergency Room. Coincidentally (literally, not figuratively) professors in Morocco staged a walk-out on Thursday to demand, among other things, a solution to their lack of scientific equipment. Perhaps our hunger-strikers should rethink their position. Perhaps they don't want to be teaching here. Perhaps they should take their cue from Bobby Sands and run for government while they still can. That way they can change the system from the inside-out: get themselves accredited and buy a few semiconductor optical amplifiers & a pad of Postie notes while they're at it.

Whatever the case, until their situation is resolved, I'll be taking the stairs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shameful, very shameful.

9:23 p.m.  
Anonymous neighbor said...

I'm stunned. I thought Morocco had close ties with France. Why do they reject these degrees?

4:40 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Because they can? Who knows? It's so nonsensical ...

5:18 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

I have to admit, I've always wondered about the effectiveness of starving oneself to death as a form of protest...

8:16 p.m.  

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