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Many Moroccan Medical Students Seek Outside Jobs to Cover Expenses

A survey of medical students in Morocco has shed light on the financial difficulties that many students in the country’s public colleges of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy face because of insufficient scholarships and financial aid.

More than half said they sometimes skipped meals or were looking for part-time work to help cover their daily living expenses. Nearly half said they lived in remote areas to find affordable rent, and 92 percent said they depended on their families for financial support while they finished their studies.

The survey, issued by the National Commission of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy Students, which represents students at the public medical faculties, was conducted via email and social media in April and received responses from 5,314 students.

Most of the respondents (91 percent) were enrolled in general medicine. The rest were almost evenly divided between pharmacy and dentistry. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents were female, and 40 percent were male.

‘Imminent Need’ for Review

Nearly all of the students surveyed “believe there is an urgent and imminent need to review their remuneration and compensation, as well as their legal status, following the inadequate efforts to support them now.”

Mohammed Kasimi Alaoui, the commission’s national coordinator, said in a statement that students in the public medical faculties needed more state support during the years they spend in theoretical training and the practical training that follows in hospitals.

Students, especially those in their first years, when little state aid is available to them, cannot bear these expenses alone, Alaoui said.

Students who do receive assistance still struggle, he said, because the state has reduced what he describes as “meagre compensation that is arbitrarily disbursed”, and payments are often late because the system is badly managed.

Those who seek outside work to help meet expenses are often stymied by the demands of their studies and required hospital internships, he added.

Almost all of the students surveyed “believe there is an urgent and imminent need to review their remuneration and compensation, as well as their legal status, following the inadequate efforts to support them now,” Alaoui said.

Payments That Barely Cover Needs

Earlier research has shown that 64 percent of medical students in Morocco depend on allowances and scholarships for their daily expenses, while 37 percent say their resources barely cover their food costs, the surveyindicated.

Students who do receive state assistance say they frequently do not receive their allowances on time, with delays sometimes exceeding seven or eight months.

Medical students in Morroco receive a scholarship of 630 Moroccan dirhams ($62) per month starting from the third year for those in general medicine and dentistry, and the fourth year for those in pharmacy. Resident practitioners in hospitals receive 2,000 Moroccan dirhams ($202) per month from the seventh year for general medicine students and from the sixth year for pharmacy and dentistry majors.

The commission’s report on the survey said there were “frequent complaints by students about not receiving financial allocations on time,” with delays of seven to eight months in many cases.

Two years ago the Moroccan Ministry of Higher Education issued a decision doubling the allowances for resident doctors but “the decision has not yet been enforced,” Alaoui said.

Skipping Meals, Seeking Jobs

Students resort to a number of measures to cope with their precarious financial situation, the report said.

Because of the high rents around colleges, 42 percent of the survey respondents said they were forced to live in remote areas, which affected their academic and professional performance.

The report also indicated that 58 percent of the students said they had had to skip meals because of lack of money.

The report said many students had to borrow or look for extra work despite the full-time burden of medical studies. Fifty-five percent said they were looking for paid work while studying. Only 11 percent were able to find work, however.

Those who were unable to find a job cited several reasons, including “the impossibility of balancing study with part-time work.” Eighty-one percent said that having hospital  internships during the summer was a limiting factor that prevented them from looking for work.

Fifty-eight percent of the students said they had sometimes skipped meals for lack of money, and 26 percent said they sometimes could not afford hygiene products like soap.

The report said the situation was affecting the quality of students’ training, as well as their social life, health and hygiene. Twenty-six percent of students said they sometimes could not afford hygiene products like soap, and over 81 percent said they had had to forgo cultural and social activities.

Seeking Increases in Scholarship Aid

“The majority of students think that a review of compensation must be imminent, as well as the establishment of scholarships for undergraduate students,” the report said.

Most students also thought the government should increase the value of their scholarships to keep pace with living costs and should subsidize restaurants in their colleges to provide food at affordable prices.

Alawi said that the poll participants wanted to see more efforts to support medical students.

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He called on all actors, including government officials, lawmakers and policy makers, to provide regular grants to help students overcome financial difficulties “in order to reduce the crisis of Moroccan doctors’ migration to the West and to contribute to building a better health care system in Morocco.”

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