Youth Protests and Daylight Saving Time in Morocco
By: Sarah Baron
December 1, 2018
Two days before the proclaimed date, the Moroccan government decided it would not change its daylight saving time. For us American students, slightly confused and unsure what time it really was, the decision was annoying but not truly substantial; however, we were completely wrong.
From the day of the decision until weeks later, the Moroccan people protested in anger and frustration. Looking back at the many consequences of the government’s decision, I can finally understand what caused the strong reaction.
Following the decision of the government, people in Morocco were, at first, incredibly confused. The administration attempted to explain their reasoning and claimed it would save money and electricity. However, over time, professors, Moroccan friends, and my host family began offering another explanation, hypothesizing that the decision was made in order to be in the same time zone as France. Due to the significant business relationship between France and Morocco, Moroccans often claim that they never fully gained their independence. Consequently, for those already angered by Morocco’s financial dependence on France, the decision to stay with daylight saving time appeared to be just another decision favoring French interests over Moroccan citizens.
As I talked further with my host family about the government’s decision, I slowly began to understand why Moroccans reacted so intensely and negatively to the administration’s unilateral choice not to change the time.
Contributing to the anger felt and heard on the streets of Morocco, the government’s decision increased the sentiment amongst Moroccans that the administration is apathetic towards the needs of its citizens. After the government’s last minute decision not to change the time, employees were late to work and students were late to school. At our study abroad center, one professor was an hour late because he became confused regarding the time. In addition, according to my host mom, the decision not to change the time is decreasing the safety of schoolchildren in Morocco—especially for those living in rural communities.
Such a decision highlights one of the deep failures in Morocco’s education system. Due to the lack of educational resources, children in rural areas are forced to walk multiple miles to school everyday. Already facing dangers on this journey, many children will now be walking to school when it is dark. Finally, in order to prevent students from having to walk to school in the dark, some schools in Rabat changed their start time to 9:00 a.m. However, parents still begin work at 8:00 a.m. Consequently, the decision changed family schedules and is now preventing many parents from accompanying their children to school.
Because of all these elements, Moroccans—especially young Moroccans—reacted strongly. Everything about the decision not to change daylight saving time increased the already widely-felt sentiment of injustice in Morocco. Exacerbating the perception that the government serves itself and not the Moroccan people, along with the feeling that France still financially controls Morocco, the administration’s decision eventually sent the youth into the streets.
Two weeks after the government’s decision, I witnessed the power of the Moroccan youth. Hearing a lot of noise from outside of our study abroad center, I ran out, only to be met with the view of a large and seemingly never-ending group of students walking through the streets. In response to their feelings of injustice, the students had staged a walkout from school. For me, it was extremely emotional to observe these protests. Witnessing people use their voices to express themselves sent chills up my spine, and helped clarify in my own mind the frustration felt by Moroccans over the government’s decision. I only hope the eyes of the government were just as wide as mine in watching the protest and observing the power of a few hundred passionate, motivated young individuals.