“Two points need to be addressed: parent awareness of school policies, and providing schools with basic safety equipment,” advised Maldives National University Chancellor Mustafa Luthfy today in an interview about physical education in the Maldives.
Last Friday, four students and the principal of Huriya School drowned during a snorkeling trip off of Huraa island. A review of school safety policies is underway.
“We are reviewing procedures and guidelines for schools to see what happened, and to see how we can prevent future tragic events,” said Deputy Education Minister Abdullah Nazeer.
The victims allegedly were not wearing life vests, and school officials who were chaperoning the trip did not know how to swim. The excursion took place in an area used by the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) for training.
“It is a tragic accident, and I am deeply concerned,” said Luthfy.
Luthfy, formerly the Education Minister, said guidelines for water excursions had been circulated in the late 1900s. “I don’t know how well they were followed, if they had been followed this would have been avoided,” he said.
Luthfy said the physical education syllabus is one of the lowest priorities in Maldivian schools, along with practical arts.
Luthfy recommended improving parental involvement and safety equipment at schools. “Parents need to understand the rules, so they can be sure the schools are following them. Otherwise, they are difficult to enforce.” Luthfy observed that parents are engaged in school boards and activities, and have a lot of input.
In 2000, Luthfy spearheaded the Every Child Swims initiative after a scout drowned, he said. He said the program had three goals: to teach every primary school child to swim; to train instructors; and to institutionalize the program.
“The program ran until 2004, but then schools started separate swimming programs and instructors began teaching their own classes, so it wasn’t institutionalized” said Luthfy.
Luthfy said the program made a difference during its four years, but he was not sure if current programs continue have an impact.
In the Maldives, many people swim at the beach. Luthfy says that distinguishing between safe and unsafe sea waters is not a program component.
“That’s not for the students to understand,” he said. “According to the Ministry, students will go swimming with teachers and parents who are expected to know where their children can swim.”
Luthfy also said that although girls remain covered when swimming, physical education did not differentiate by gender. “Girls live in the same place as boys, they face the same situations. They have the same life, so schools do not and should not differentiate. Many schools have girls swimming teams,” he said.
Officials were unable to respond to Minivan’s inquiries about Hiriya school’s safety procedures. Nazeer said that the Education Ministry is working with police and the MNDF on investigative reports, which are due for release on Thursday.
12 thoughts on “Maldives school swimming policies under review; physical education a low priority says Luthfy”
If I'm not mistaken, MOE circular of 2003 are on some school's handbooks. We can review the policies, circulate them...but the most important of all is to follow them.
Well I guess the fault lies partly on the education ministry. Why did they allow schools adopt their own swimming lessons when there was a national 'every child should swim' program was going on? Then if they has allowed, why did they fail to monitor how well such programs are been undertaken? The fault lies in the state too as we still do not have proper 'Health and Safety Act' which shall contain guidelines of all such cases. And finally the fault lies with the school too for not taking necessary safety measures before taking a group of girls who didn't know how to swim out into the sea. The parents are the elast to be blamed here, so I don't agree with what luthfy is saying. Not all parents can be made aware of too as different parents have different levels of education and awareness level. If parents are sending their children on a trip with the teachers, they expect the school teachers to be fully responsible and take good care of their children, which offcourse includes safety measures in this case. Our country still have officials who do not do their jobs well despite the fact they get a high pay from the government, and the education ministry is surely one of them.
There was a foreign teacher at LALE SCHOOL , shocked by his students' inability to swim, who HAD THE QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE. to start a National Swimming program, starting with the schools. He spent 4 unfruitful months trying to get the Officials to reply, (he was deemed 'not important enough to reply to') - so he then gave-up trying & built a boat. It's still a good idea.
my (cynical) experience suggests that if you can find an official that can devise a way to obtain personal glory from good ideas, and feather their own nest at someone elses expense - then there may be a chance of instigating something... good luck ! !
@ John Campbell I can well believe the foreign teacher was ignored, Maldives likes it's foreigners to do the job they were hired for and shut up-if they suggest areas for development or change these are often ignored.
I have seen many foreigners come and go in schools/hospitals and such places, they have been hired to carry out research, they try their best to work hard with the locals, offer ideas and suggestions for development but to no avail. Any programmes, ideas or plans are filed in the bin, while the government does precious little. the foreigners get frustrated and leave and then we are back to square one!
Locals think these ideas are good but know nothing will come of them, because as we know, unless a Maldivian 'official' thinks of them and can bask in the glory then they are a no go area!
I hope this tragic accident will make the government sit up and do something-teachers should do a thorough risk assessment and have a plan before they take children out on excursions. They should have people who can swim present on excursions that involve water. Why did they allow children who can't swim in the water without life aids-everybody knows that water is dangerous and tides and currents can change quickly. Every teacher should be first aid trained and know CPR!
Cynically I feel that no one will be held accountable for monitoring schools and over time this tragedy will be put to the back of the government's list of things to do along with everything else of importance. Too many people in the ministry are being paid for doing nothing, get rid of them and hire people who will work to make the changes people want to see
I had the priviledge of working with the Principal of the school and senior students at the school during these last two years and I am deeply saddened.
My prayers to the parents and families of those who died, and the staff and students and families of Hiriya School as they come to terms with this tragic loss.
If I am not mistaken it was dr.latheef who started the every child swims program when he was the min of education and later scrapped by saugee. How can dr. Luthier start an every child swim program when he was not the minister or deputy then ? It is sad they have neglected this issue until such tragedies
Ziyan, SAABAS....YOUR COMMENT HERE IS FANTASTIC...but i am wondering if any big-shot there to listen or at least read such marvelous comments for fear of losing their Golden chances of making fool of the poor citizens
I’ am deeply saddened about this tragic incident, unfortunately our holly party the “Adhaalath” never made a statement on this issue!
1. Visit to site before field trip.
2. Is the site safe.
3. Student teacher ratio.
4. How many students can and can't swim?
5. Do teachers and parents know to swim?
6. Life jackets to be worn by those who do not know to swim IF they are required to get into water.
7. Are kick boards available?
8. Is the coast guard informed?
9. How many life guards are going.
10. Launch at the site or what is the nearest island that can send a launch.
11. Is the health center of the island informed?
12. Is a health assistant accompanying.
13. Ropes and markers to identify safe swimming area.
dr latheef as minister of education made swimming compulsory for all primary children, popularized the “Every Child Swims” program. He believed that every Maldivian must swim. The country is 99.9% water. He conducted the program for eight years covered 25 000 children successfully and not ONE incident happened. As dr luthfy says rules were in place with STRINGENT OVERSITE. After dr latheef left in one year one child was drowned. Rules were tightened to extremes but where not implemented. Then Minister Shaugy decided the program unnecessary. Then came Dr luthfy as minister. He also did not find it so important and so was not revived during his term. THESE ARE FACTS.
this event points out a VERY SEVERE problem in ALL m-dives schools... there is no INSURANCE COVER for anyone attending schools in the m-dives... students - teachers - parents - visitors.... on excursions or travelling to & from schools NO ONE IS COVERED.... THIS MUST CHANGE..... j
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