Students take to President’s Office over “pocket money” funding concerns

Hundreds of students gathered today outside the President’s Office to call for the reestablishment of a “pocket money” grant scheme and have vowed to continue strikes and protests if their aims for free funding are not met.

After sending a petition to President Mohamed Nasheed last Thursday (24 February) over concerns about the end of the pocket money programme for pupils who enrolled in Maldivian higher education institutions during 2010, a large number of students took to the streets today to try and guarantee a monthly grant for their studies.

In light of the protests, prominent education officials in the country have claimed that the pocket money system had been phased out for pupil enrollments in 2010 as part of plans establish a new student loans system.

Some higher education figures claim that the loan, which would be required to be paid back unlike the pocket money, would be more widely available, yet they accepted that a system of means tested benefits and scholarships may be required for protecting the most financially vulnerable and brightest students respectively.

Despite these claims, some student protesters who had gathered outside the President’s Office this afternoon said they were not convinced that the planned student loans system was working in a manner fair to all Maldivians wishing to take part in higher education.

Two of the gathered protesters told Minivan News that the strikes, which were said to have been organised by just a “couple of students”, represented concerns about the government listening to students and the overall cost of education.

The protesters went on to claim that at present, some students appeared to still be getting the pocket money grant, while others were struggling to afford or obtain books required for their studies, with no explanation being given about how the current system of grants and loans were being assigned.

Abdulla Asjad, another student at the gathering currently studying for a BTch (Secondary) in Male’, said that he believed the student loan system bought in to replace pocket money was also not being supplied to everyone.

“They are giving these loans to some, but not to all students. They have not explained the system at all,” he said.

Asjad claimed that as protests continued, he was aware that five or so students had been admitted to the President’s Office to meet Nasheed himself, but he said the outcome of the talks remained uncertain.

When asked though about the students’ next plan to try and seek the return of pocket money, he replied: “We will come back.”

Education challenges

Dr Mustafa Luthfy, a former Education Minister and the Chancellor of the recently opened Maldives National University said that amendments made to higher education funding were bought about in an attempt to make the system fairer for a wider number of students, rather than trying to cut spending.

Recognising the concerns of some students over the changes though, the chancellor said that he had been involved with meetings to discuss the student petition. The meetings were said to be jointly organised between the country’s current Education Minister and the Minister of Human Resources, Youth, and Sports.

“Before 2009, some students were given pocket money of about Rf1,000 by the government for studying certain courses at specific institutions,” he said. “The government decided to change to student loans in 2009. Those students that enrolled in 2010 knew they were getting that. But students who enrolled before this time were still receiving the pocket money.”

According to Luthfy, the replacement student loan system, which provides about Rf2,000 a month to students at an interest rate lower than that being offered by national banks, was designed to be offered to every student in higher education regardless of the course or the institution they were studying.

These loans were then expected to be paid back years later when students had graduated and were in work, he claimed.

Luthfy told Minivan News that he believed there had been some problems with the grants and loan system, such as the case of a number of students who had travelled to study nursing at an institution in India.

After financial difficulties hit the study programme and the local representative in charge was said to have been unable to cover their economic responsibilities, the university chancellor claimed that the government had intervened and brought the students back to the Maldives.

After putting them into a local educational institution – where the students were deemed to be missing some of the requirements needed to study there – the government also took the decision to offer grants to aid the pupils through additional foundation courses after they had already paid money to the Indian institution in question, Luthfy said.

Scholarship considerations

In considering today’s protest, the university chancellor said that although he believed the student loans were open to everyone, some changes to existing education funding would possibly need to be introduced in the future.

“The student loan system is fairer in one way,” he said. “But students do have to pay for this.”

Luthfy claimed that at present, institutions such as the Maldives National University were already using their entire budgets, so the reintroduction of grants like pocket money was not deemed possible by the government.

In looking to further potential changes, the chancellor suggested that systems such as means testing could be used to ascertain where assistance was needed for economically disadvantaged pupils or those suitable for scholarships.

“For the future, we will have to look at methods to help students who have financial difficulties,” he said. “Right now we also don’t have scholarship programmes, but we would have to introduce them in order to attract the brightest students.”


15 thoughts on “Students take to President’s Office over “pocket money” funding concerns”

  1. This widespread expectation for monetary handouts is the result of handing everything out over years instead of people working for it.

    It is time everyone including students took responsibility to use students loans like in other countries and paid it back. Make changes also in those funds given out on previous arrangements. Give loan options not "non pay back funds". Scholarships are awards to those who compete and excel.

    We need consistent policies and leaders who can manage the processes well. Seems like nothing happens without constant eruptions!! Evolving young democracy eh!!

  2. From where theese students has learn, something called free higher education with pocket money or stipend. This is all because of uneducated thugs in MDP like Reeko Moosa and Dhonbileiy Haleem, who has never seen a uni, keep on shouting on stages, once MDP come to power everything will be free. Now President has to face all these problems because of idiots like Moosa.

  3. Why don't somebody explain to students, there is nothing we can get free in this world anymore, you have to work hard to get it. Every where its bursary or student loans with some time free of interest. You have to repay once you are graduated and get the job.

    Some incompetent people in Ministries are making mistakes and to be politically correct President is force to make mistakes. For examples those nursing student, President should not give them free scholarships or stipend as such. They are not qualified for nursing schools, that's why they were rejected period, its not the responsibility of President. Its the responsibility of students and their parents.

  4. Students studying where? What pocket money scheme? Please clarify in the first couple of paragraphs if you can.

  5. students, be careful for what you are asking for. you will hardly find any democratic country that provides free higher education. do you instead want to change this country to a welfare state? or better to a communist country? so the state will arguably pay equally for everyone.

    for a change, why not appreciate the fact of life, that everything has a price, and someone will have to pay for it.

  6. The president wants to keep all you pocket moneys for his and his family's trips abroad. So shut up all of you.

  7. A background needs to be provided on this situation by an insider. I propose to rise to the challenge.

    - If one observes the protest closely, the Media Coordinator of the People's Alliance (PA) was one of the organizers behind this protest. He was also active at the scene.

    - Inequality is not the issue to be addressed here BUT most importantly the learning institutions do NOT at present have proper mechanisms and frameworks in place to encourage learning. Rather, the system provides for vicious politicking within the student community and a miserable spoon-fed education system which is NOT the hallmark of a real university.

    - The students really do not understand the national issues with regards to monetary policy and fiscal expenditure. University students would be expected to have the greatest knowledge of economic issues. Rather these are village-folk with their chickens strapped on their backs pretending to study in order to secure pretend "degrees" in order to justify their claims for undeserved employment in the civil service.

    - Before the institution of the MNU, the MCHE administration had accepted petitions to remove lecturers and to bring about changes which led to the creation of a mob mentality among near-illiterate underachievers who wished nothing else but to maintain their place in their respective faculties.

    - The activities of Maldivian political parties has led to the corruption and distortion of the very idea of dissent into a sense that if enough people gather in one place and shout the same thing, it must then become law.

    If I may propose some solutions, here are a few.
    - Introduce rigorous entrance criteria which SHOULD include experience in a working environment with a letter of recommendation from the workplace. (The current secondary and higher secondary education systems do not prepare school-leavers for tertiary education).
    - Establish a proper assessment framework which allows for encouragement of academic excellence rather than mob rule.
    - Promote a culture of respect among students for those who excel.
    - Do not respond to requests stemming from petty jealousies and personal vendettas.
    - Introduce English-language training programs and strict requirements for English-language proficiency before casting students into an environment where access to knowledge is restricted by lack of tools to acquire it.
    etc. etc. The list goes on.
    If the above are just too impossible, then at least start talking about these issues at a national level.

  8. I blame all this to MDP thugs, just because of their thuggish rhetoric nonsense they keep on pounding our radio waves, that everything can be free and we are running a democratic country with Westminster type politics. But everything is opposite so students think they are in Harvard or Oxford, it is not even a month this University has started now they are protesting. I am sure this will be a big failure unless, this university is free from domestic politics.

  9. what kind of nonsense is this. why should the government pay students AND give them a free education. why dont these students get a real job and earn money instead of demanding for payouts. idiots.

  10. these people should think about working partime and earning like students all over the world, instead of leaching off public funds.

  11. @garfield

    Work parttime you say?

    Never! work is dirty. Working a non skilled job is a very dirty activity for a Maldivian. Let alone a student.

    No. We must follow the arabs. Just In Kuwait, Qatar. All expenses studies ,ust be paid by the government. Even after graduation, Maldivians dont really want to work. We will just employ SriLankans, while we sit at a Manager table, handing out instructions.

    Work? Never!!!

    Government must pay.

  12. I request government not to bow to such silly demands, engineered by evil elements of the opposition, through students.

    Government policies should be in the overall good of the country, you dont have to freak out every time when there is a demonstration and abandon sensible policies.

  13. @ Naseer. I agree. We also need pocket money to travel in taxi. Let these students think twice. This demonstration was called by the DRP advisor Muhisina. I called upon President Nasheed not to pay pocket money, and what ever is paying also to stop.

  14. I fully support you "Tsk Tsk" - there probably won't be anyone left in your batch by the time they are done with weeding!


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