Following the government’s decision to close schools for grades 9 and under during Ramadan, the Teachers Association of Maldives had said the move will damage students academically.
“We cannot at all accept the way schools were shut down all of a sudden,” said President of the Teacher’s Association Athif Abdul Hakeem.
While teachers do not have a problem with the concept of closing schools for Ramadan, he said, the manner in which the decision was made had given rise to numerous problems.
“It would have been alright if it had been planned ahead and included in the academic calendar,” he said. “The excuse that the Education Ministry gave for closing schools is also unacceptable. If students in Grades 10 and above can understand lessons in three hours, so can those in grade 8. It’s illogical to claim otherwise.”
Hakeem also refuted the ministry’s claims that attendance was lower during Ramadan, adding that students will face disadvantages as a result of the sudden closure.
Earlier in June, the Education Ministry announced the decision, saying that the reduced three-hour days during the month of fasting were insufficient time in which to take lessons.
It further claimed that the decision had been made after holding discussions with those in the education sector and parents – a claim Hakeem has denied.
Parents and teachers
“It is a horrible decision,” said Mariyam Maanaa – mother of a Grade 8 student. “It is making children lethargic. How will they cope when they start working and have to go to office during Ramadan if they get used to this being a vacation?”
Civil service working hours – also the subject of some controversy prior to the start of the holy month – are between 10am and 2pm throughout Ramadan.
“This is the first time school has been closed during Ramadan and I see no reason why it had to be done,” she continued
Parent Rahima Ali, meanwhile, feels that it was a reasonable decision to not hold sessions for youngest of students.
“Perfectly understandable that school is closed for pre-schoolers. It might have been okay to close them even for Grades 1 to 5. But over that, they are not so young anymore. They must be able to concentrate on lessons even if fasting.
“Fasting is not meant to be a break from life when all you have to do is sleep through the day. The ministry’s decision is ruining our children’s discipline.”
Teacher Aishath Inas stated that while they had been asked to provide handouts to students for the holidays, teachers did not have sufficient time to effectively do so.
“It will also be extremely hard to try to cover a full month’s syllabus later. Many teachers are unhappy with the fact that we have to work through Ramadan even when students are not here, and while we will also need to come out to work on every Saturday for the rest of the year,” she said.
Despite the government’s decision, some schools – especially those in the islands – have begun to take sessions under the name of holding extra classes.
The Teacher’s Association was informed today that the ministry had notified those schools to stop holding such classes.
“The fact that schools are taking the initiative and holding classes shows just how concerned teachers are that we may not be able to complete the syllabus on time,” he said.
On July 3, the Ministry announced that the mid-term break would now be rescheduled to fit in into the last days of Ramadan.
Hakeem stated that this would once again pose problems as it may interfere with travel and other plans that parents may have already made in accordance with the annual academic calendar.
“The gist of the matter is we cannot accept the overhauling of the academic calendar in the middle of the year. There is no formula that will allow us to complete the syllabus on time now. As for working on Saturdays, it will be a burden on the state budget to have teachers work then as according to the law, teachers will need to be paid double the rate if they are working on an official holiday,” he continued.
Minivan News was unable to contact Ministry of Education Media Officer Maina Latheef at the time of press.