Former Education Minister and former Chancellor of the Maldives National University, Dr Musthafa Luthfy, has condemned the Ministry of Education’s decision to revise the Social Studies textbook for grade 7 students.
The Education Development Center (EDC), which is run under the Education ministry, last week issued a circular ordering primary schools to amend the unit on the government and include the information regarding the recent power transfer that took place in the country.
The statement that the EDC has asked to include reads: “President Nasheed resigned on 7 February 2012 after three years and two months in office. Hence, according to the constitution, Vice-president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was sworn in as president.”
Speaking to Minivan News, Dr Luthfy alleged that the government is allowing young school children to become involved in the intense political debate over the legitimacy of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government. He also raised suspicions that the decision may be due to some ‘political essence’ in the matter.
Dr Luthfy instead insisted the government be patient on the issue as it was highly sensitive and subject to controversy.
Dr Luthfy was previously a member of Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad (GI) party, and is currently the Chair of the Maldivian Democractic Party (MDP)’s Select Committee on Education.
“We are asking the government to be patient as this a very controversial issue. This decision shows their impatience. What they are really doing is allowing young children to get involved in the ongoing political debate. That is not good. The book [after inclusion of the revised statement] reads as if nothing serious has happened and that the president just resigned, and the vice president succeeded in assuming presidency. But what is really happening is a bigger issue than that,” he said.
Dr Luthfy said that children would obviously be aware of the political crisis and that what they would read in the books was far too simplified and contradictory.
“A large proportion of people are questioning the legitimacy of the government. The parents of these children are already involved in the debate. It is being talked about on almost every corner, in shops, restaurants and everywhere. What the children read in the books is written down too simply. It is very contradicting for them,” Dr Luthfy said.
“I believe the state has an obligation to provide true and relevant information. Why can’t we have a little patience before writing down such a controversial issue? Aren’t we letting the children into this debate?” he questioned. “Our concern is not about changing what is already written in the books, but the involvement of children in the debates.”
“[The education ministry] could have written this at a later stage after a proper investigation of the power transfer. They can’t change history, history will continue. What has happened cannot be concealed.”
The MDP had earlier released a statement condemning the Education Ministry’s decision. The statement said that that it was irresponsible of the education ministry to change the text books especially following a coup d’état, and without proper investigation it was misleading to include such a statement.
Speaking to Minivan News, Head of the Curriculum Division of the EDC, Dr Naashia Mohamed, said the EDC had a panel for each of the subjects taught in school and similarly, the panel responsible for the Social Studies subject had drafted the phrase to be included in the text book.
Asked about the comments made by Dr Musthafa Luthfy, she refused to comment.
State Minister of Education Imad Solih said he did not believe that all the details of what happened on February 7 had to be included in the textbook.
“I personally don’t believe that everything that happened has to be included in the book. The Social Studies textbook speaks about the President, so it is obvious that Dr Waheed is the president. It is the reality,” Solih said.
He also said that it was clear that President Nasheed had resigned, but the question being debated was whether it was forced or voluntary.
“Until a decision is made, Dr Waheed is still the president, and if anything changes that fact, they would bring the necessary changes,” he said.
Responding to Musthafa Luthfy’s comments on bringing school children into the debate, Solih acknowledged that there may be children at that age group who would discuss the issue, but he said that he saw it as a “secondary issue”.
Solih also said that the teachers were not investigators and were instead mandated to teach in line with a specific curriculum and guidelines, so they would teach from the curriculum.