NGOs and parents protest against education sector outside president’s residence

A coalition of NGOs have begun a series of protests outside the President’s residence to express disapproval of the education sector of the Maldives.

A spokesperson for the NGO coalition, Ibrahim Moahmed, told Minivan News that the protesters waited peacefully outside the presidential residence over the weekend to express their disapproval of the education minister and his policy.

“There were parents, NGOs and other concerned people of the nation regarding numerous issues concerning the education sector,” said Ibrahim. “A person came from inside and told us we would get an appointment with the President tomorrow, and we all dispersed.”

Ibrahim said the NGO coalition consisted “of 127 NGOs.”

“50-60 people joined the protest,” he said.

The Education Ministry’s move towards co-education across all schools in the Maldives – currently only four are single sex – has drawn considerable consternation from many religious conservatives. Education Minister Dr Mustafa Luthfy is again in the spotlight after protests were held outside his house earlier this year following a proposal from the Ministry’s steering committee suggesting that Islam and Dhivehi be made optional at A-level.

Currently only 2000 of the 10,000 students who sit O-levels each year pass enough subjects to continue to A-level studies. This troubling statistic, identified by Luthfy as one of the country’s key social problems, results in approximately 8000 disaffected 15-16 year-olds released onto the streets annually, with little hope of finding a job until they turn 18.

More recently a debate has been sparked over the merits and demerits of co-education.

Referencing “a World Health Organisation (WHO) report”, Ibrahim claimed that a rising number of sexual relationship “is more concerning for the Maldives than the issue of illegal narcotics.”

He noted that the NGO coalition had sought to file the issue of co-education with parliament’s national security committee today.

The NGO coalition says they have highlighted 22 issues concerning the education sector.

On 4 October, the Adhaalath Party said the government’s new co-education policy was “a failed Western concept inconsistent with the teachings of Islam.”

On the next day, religious NGO Jamiyyathulsalaf called for the resignation of Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy, and claimed that Arabiyya was the only Maldivian school with an adequate education policy.

In the same strain, the minority opposition party People’s Alliance (PA), led by the former president’s brother MP Abdulla Yameen, strongly condemned the idea of introducing co-education.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


‘Co-education’ inconsistent with the culture of Islam, says Adhaalath Party

The government’s new co-education policy is a failed Western concept inconsistent with the teachings of Islam, the Adhaalath Party has said.

“Co-education is a concept introduced at the beginning of this century by Western countries, and later spread across the Islamic world by colonial force”, a statement issued by the Adhaalath Party said.

It is a concept that is alien to the emphasis that Islamic teachings place on gender segregation in the education system, the statement read.

Furthermore, Adhaalath said, co-education has been proven more harmful than beneficial “by modern research.”

Citing American writer, anti-feminist and Republican Party activist George Gilder, the Adhaalath Party said co-education has been known to “accelerate puberty in students and increase the testosterone levels of boys by 20 percent.”

“As a result, boys spend their time in a state of heightened sexual turmoil,” the party claimed.

The statement read that girls suffer similar consequences, with increased sexual hormones, and “often suffer from fatigue and depression as a result.”

Students of both sexes, therefore, it said, “spend more time focusing on the opposite sex than on their studies.”

Adhaalath Party also added that it was “astonished” that the Education Ministry was attempting to introduce a system of education that is not only against Islam, “but has also been tried, tested and failed in the West.”

Adhaalath Party also contradicted findings that attribute high academic achievements at Ahmadiyya School to its co-education policy.

“Not only are the boys and girls at Ahmadiyya being taught in separate classrooms – even the entrances used by the two sexes are separate,” Adhaalath said.

Deputy Minister of Education Dr Abdulla Nazeer recently told Minivan News the ministry has not decided to mix female and male students in the secondary grades.

“But we have decided to establish primary grades in all the schools,’’ Nazeer said. ‘’So Majeediyya School, Dharumavantha, Ameeniyya and Hiriya will no longer be solely for Secondary education.’’

Secondary education will be provided in all the primary schools as well.

Currently only male students can join Majeediyya and Dharumavantha while only females can join Ameeniyya and Hiriya school. They teach grade eight, nine and ten, the final three years leading up to GCE O’Levels.