Majlis committee demands details from education ministry over deputy principals’ removal

The Majlis government oversight committee has demanded the ministry of education submit all relevant information regarding the removal of deputy principals from the schools.

Vice-Chair of the committee Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef told local media that the letters demanding information will be sent today, with the ministry being given until tomorrow to submit the information. The committee also decided to summon serving deputy principals to clarify information.

The post of deputy principal has been abolished under a new organisational structure approved by the ministry for public schools. The ministry has said persons currently serving as deputy principals would be transferred to different posts in lieu of dismissal.

State Minister for Education Dr Abdulla Nazeer told state broadcaster Television Maldives last week that the change was intended to strengthen school management.

The decision came as a surprise to the 188 deputy principals in the country, with some telling media they were not previously informed of the decision, expressing shock upon hearing the news.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) submitted the case to the government oversight committee, stating that the party wants to clarify the reasoning behind the decision and that the government could not dismiss civil servants without due process.

An unnamed deputy principal told that they were offered two options by the ministry – either take up administrative or other relevant posts or be laid off with three month’s salary paid up front.

State Minister of Education Dr Abdulla Nazeer – while speaking to state television – said that the ministry’s aim was to eradicate the deputy principal level in the organisational structure in order to bring the principals closer to the teachers.

“The majority of the deputy principals are performing administrative level tasks at the school which should be done by administrative officers instead. We want to task the deputy principals with more academic related work,” said Nazeer.

The MDP severely criticised the government for its plans, however, stating that the decision was “inhumane” and “uncivilised”.

Speaking to Minivan News, former Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfee said that the government decision lacks any professional reasoning, speculating that it was taken to appoint more political figures to the ministry.

“Right now there are around 12 political figures at the education ministry therefore all the decisions regarding the education are made at a political level. This leads to problems because such decisions should be taken by educated academic professionals instead,” said Luthfee.

He also pointed out that, even though the deputy principals should have been contacted by the civil service commission regarding the issue, some were consulted through mobile phones and at cafes by political figures.

Deputy Minister of Law and Gender Aiminath Nadira said in a tweet that the decision would leave a lot of women in a vulnerable position (most deputy principals are women) and that the government needed to find a good alternative solution.

Luthfee also alleged that a circular was sent to the schools specifying that the chief guests for school-related events should only be brought after consultation with the ministry.

The MDP has also taken issue with the government’s spending plans for the education sector, which includes money for eight new political postings and over 2,000 new staff members.

Despite unrest among teachers this year, education minister Aiminath Shiham has said that the government has brought significant changes to the sector, including introducing Quran classes for the entire primary education and vocational training.

Around 90 percent of the teachers across the nation protested in September 21 by wearing black clothing to raise issues such as poor pay, inadequate  protection of teachers, and the failure to grant the Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) official recognition.

The government avoided a full on strike at the eleventh hour after sitting down with TAM and creating a timeline in which to meet the demands of teachers.

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Revision of schoolbooks is politicising children: former Education Minister

Former Education Minister and former Chancellor of the Maldives National University, Dr Musthafa Luthfy, has condemned the Ministry of Education’s decision to revise the Social Studies textbook for grade 7 students.

The Education Development Center (EDC), which is run under the Education ministry, last week issued a circular ordering primary schools to amend the unit on the government and include the information regarding the recent power transfer that took place in the country.

The statement that the EDC has asked to include reads: “President Nasheed resigned on 7 February 2012 after three years and two months in office. Hence, according to the constitution, Vice-president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was sworn in as president.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Dr Luthfy alleged that the government is allowing young school children to become involved in the intense political debate over the legitimacy of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government. He also raised suspicions that the decision may be due to some ‘political essence’ in the matter.

Dr Luthfy instead insisted the government be patient on the issue as it was highly sensitive and subject to controversy.

Dr Luthfy was previously a member of Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad (GI) party, and is currently the Chair of the Maldivian Democractic Party (MDP)’s Select Committee on Education.

“We are asking the government to be patient as this a very controversial issue. This decision shows their impatience. What they are really doing is allowing young children to get involved in the ongoing political debate. That is not good. The book [after inclusion of the revised statement] reads as if nothing serious has happened and that the president just resigned, and the vice president succeeded in assuming presidency. But what is really happening is a bigger issue than that,” he said.

Dr Luthfy said that children would obviously be aware of the political crisis and that what they would read in the books was far too simplified and contradictory.

“A large proportion of people are questioning the legitimacy of the government. The parents of these children are already involved in the debate. It is being talked about on almost every corner, in shops, restaurants and everywhere. What the children read in the books is written down too simply. It is very contradicting for them,” Dr Luthfy said.

“I believe the state has an obligation to provide true and relevant information. Why can’t we have a little patience before writing down such a controversial issue? Aren’t we letting the children into this debate?” he questioned. “Our concern is not about changing what is already written in the books, but the involvement of children in the debates.”

“[The education ministry] could have written this at a later stage after a proper investigation of the power transfer.  They can’t change history, history will continue. What has happened cannot be concealed.”

The MDP had earlier released a statement condemning the Education Ministry’s decision. The statement said that that it was irresponsible of the education ministry to change the text books especially following a coup d’état, and without proper investigation it was misleading to include such a statement.

Speaking to Minivan News, Head of the Curriculum Division of the EDC, Dr Naashia Mohamed, said the EDC had a panel for each of the subjects taught in school and similarly, the panel responsible for the Social Studies subject had drafted the phrase to be included in the text book.

Asked about the comments made by Dr Musthafa Luthfy, she refused to comment.

State Minister of Education Imad Solih said he did not believe that all the details of what happened on February 7 had to be included in the textbook.

“I personally don’t believe that everything that happened has to be included in the book. The Social Studies textbook speaks about the President, so it is obvious that Dr Waheed is the president. It is the reality,” Solih said.

He also said that it was clear that President Nasheed had resigned, but the question being debated was whether it was forced or voluntary.

“Until a decision is made, Dr Waheed is still the president, and if anything changes that fact, they would bring the necessary changes,” he said.

Responding to Musthafa Luthfy’s comments on bringing school children into the debate, Solih acknowledged that there may be children at that age group who would discuss the issue, but he said that he saw it as a “secondary issue”.

Solih also said that the teachers were not investigators and were instead mandated to teach in line with a specific curriculum and guidelines, so they would teach from the curriculum.