Teachers’ Day tradition provokes financial dispute

Wednesday, October 4 will be celebrated as Teachers’ Day, however reports state that parents are objecting to some schools’ request for a Rf100 (US$6.50) donation towards the festivities.

Deputy Minister of Education Ibrahim Rasheed said that he had not received any complaints regarding the celebrations. Rasheed said Teachers’ Day celebrations were voluntary, and that it was up to the parents to contribute.

He expressly noted that donations were not required by the ministry.

“It’s up to the parents. If the parents organise an activity it’s up to them to decide how they will do it,” said Rasheed.

According to local media, all schools have asked for donations, but the request became an issue when some schools set a fixed amount. One parent allegedly said her child was asked to bring “good” gifts, and that she felt forced to donate to the celebrations because the school was keeping a record of contributors.

Rasheed said it was tradition for students to bring teachers cards and flowers in appreciation, and supposed that the request for donations had been organised by the school board or parent teacher associations (PTAs). He confirmed that no part of the school budget is set aside for Teachers’ Day.

PTAs play a significant role in school decisions. For many parents, education is important; one source indicated that parents have requested improvements beyond the state budget’s scope, and that they may be asked to supply the necessary financing to realise their demands.

The Principal of Ameeniya School, Athiya Naseer, had not heard of complaints at other schools but said state budgets are insufficient. “We can hold extra curricular activities, but depending on the type of activity we may have to fundraise,” she said. “Everyone shares in the fundraising though, parents and students and teachers.”

Teachers are important figures in the community “who are doing their jobs very well,” said Rasheed. However, some consider salaries proportionately low.

“The salaries are very low compared to the cost of living,” said Naseer. “Many teachers tutor on the side.” Naseer could not say if teachers felt pressed to tutor to make ends meet.

Rasheed did not wish to comment on matter.

“The whole world is undergoing a serious economic downturn at the moment,” said Deputy Director General of the Center for Continuing Education (CCE), Adam Sharaaf Umar. “It will certainly affect the education system and other sectors as well. But teachers are optimistic, and always working hard at their jobs.”

Tomorrow’s festivities will start in the morning with students and parents welcoming teachers to schools. The Teaching Excellence Award 2011 will be announced tomorrow evening at Dharubaaruge, an event which President Mohamed Nasheed is expected to attend.

On October 8, CCE will host a teacher conference “to share and contribute practices and exchange views on how to apply new ideas in the classroom,” said Umar.