The Bank of Maldives launched a new loan scheme today dedicated for Maldivian teachers and lecturers, offering loans up to MVR100,000 for a period of five years.
The new scheme offers teachers loans ranging from MVR 50,000 to MVR 100,000 at a 15 percent interest rate per year, the national bank said today.
“The purpose of the loan is to encourage the development of teachers, whether it is a training program or further studies or to purchase additional equipment such as laptops,” reads a statement by the bank.
Education Minister Dr Aishath Shiham praised the bank for its contribution to the development of teachers.
“Teachers play a pivotal role in our community by nurturing, moulding and shaping the future generations of the nation. As the national bank, we’re proud to launch this customised loan product for this special group of people in our society,” said the bank’s CEO and managing director, Andrew Healy.
The government launched a programme to screen seventh grade students for health problems.
The programme – the first of its kind in the Maldives – began yesterday at the Iskandhar School in Malé.
At a ceremony held at the president’s office, the health ministry and education ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct the programme in schools across the country.
The government says the programme will help identify health issues among adolescents and offer treatment for undiagnosed illnesses. The education ministry aims to screen all 5,656 seventh grade students in the Maldives before the end of the year.
The students will be screened for problems with skin, hair eyesight, spine, teeth, throat, respiration, blood circulation and blood pressure as well as diabetes and psychological issues.
Blood tests will also be conducted for haemoglobin levels, blood group, and thalassemia.
The former principal of Aminiya School has said she will sue the education ministry for unfair dismissal.
Athiya Naseer was sacked on Monday without warning after the education ministry deemed her a threat to the school. Her dismissal sparked outrage with dozens of teachers signing a petition demanding an explanation from the ministry.
Speaking to Haveeru today, Athiya said she was “shocked” by the dismissal and said: ““Honestly, I have no idea what the issue is.”
Aathiyaa said in her four years as the principal, the only “damages” she had caused were increasing the number of students who passed tenth grade exams and improving the students’ discipline and the school’s reputation.
Several teachers have alleged the move was politically motivated as Athiya is the wife of former opposition MP Ahmed Abdulla.
Parents of students attending Aminiya school have also criticised the education ministry’s decision. Some students told Haveeru they saw Athiya more as a friend than a principal.
The education ministry has declined to comment on the issue.
Aminiya School principal Aishath Athiya Naseer has been fired on orders from the education ministry.
According to local media, the civil service commission told Athiya yesterday that the education ministry believed her continued presence will cause “further damages” to the school.
The education ministry confirmed the sacking, but declined to provide further information.
A senior teacher who wished to remain anonymous told Minivan News today that teachers and students were “shocked and deeply saddened” by Athiya’s dismissal, which most faculty members believe to be politically motivated.
Athiya was appointed principal in 2011 and is the wife of former opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP Ahmed Abdulla.
Most teachers have signed a petition asking the ministry to explain why Athiya has been considered a threat to the school.
The senior teacher said Athiya is very professional, diplomatic, and had always followed the education ministry’s instructions.
The ministry’s actions have left teachers unsure of their job security, the teacher added: “Who knows who will get dismissed tomorrow saying they are a threat?”
Ali Sulaiman, treasurer of the school’s parent teacher association, suggested that Athiya’s sacking followed the PTA raising concerns with the ministry over students at the adjacent Centre for Higher Secondary Education (CHSE) using Aminiya’s science laboratories.
The parents were concerned about older boys from CHSE interacting with younger girls at Aminiya, Sulaiman said.
“We never denied CHSE students of use of our lab. They should also be given the chance to learn. However, our concern was how to manage all of the students as we also have a similar problems with capacity due to the falling of concrete structures in old buildings,” he explained.
The PTA requested a visit from education minister Dr Aishath Shiham to inspect the state of disrepair of the school’s building.
However, the minister did not say whether or not she would visit the school. The following day, the school received a letter from the ministry with instructions to fire Athiya, he continued.
“It is very difficult to understand the reason the ministry is giving. Our concern is to solve the problems in the school. It does not seem to us that sacking Athiya is the solution,”said Sulaiman.
Last month, at least five employees at state-owned companies were fired and several more were suspended after they attended opposition protests, which have now entered its tenth week. The opposition is campaigning for the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim from jail.
A group of local artists staged a protest at the national art gallery today over the exclusion of paintings depicting former President Mohamed Nasheed from an exhibition organised by the education ministry.
The exhibition, launched yesterday, featured artwork and handicraft by students from 32 schools as part of events planned by the government to mark the upcoming golden jubilee of the country’s independence.
“Nasheed is said to be the Mandela of the Indian Ocean and I personally have a lot of respect for him. That is why I chose to paint him,” 18-year-old Mohamed Raaif told Minivan News today.
The Maldives National University student explained that his painting was initially put up, but he later discovered that it had been removed.
Raaif said a teacher told him that the organisers claimed his painting was of “a terrorist” and could not be displayed.
The opposition leader was found guilty of terrorism on Friday night (March 13) and sentenced to 13 years in prison over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
Education ministry officials in charge of organising the exhibition could not be reached at the time of publication.
A second painting by a student featuring the former president was also removed.
However, artwork featuring other politicians with blurred faces were displayed at the exhibition.
Raaif said he spent three days working on the painting and had stayed up all night to complete it. He said he was hoping to raise funds for his mother’s backbone surgery as the family was currently facing financial constraints.
He added that he did not have any intention of politicising the painting. However, Raaif said he associated the theme of the exhibition – freedom or independence – with former President Nasheed.
“Not free yet”
Online news outlet CNM reported that the second banned painting of Nasheed was from a grade ten student at the Addu City Feydhoo School.
“That photo is of a terrorist. Photos of terrorists cannot be promoted,” organisers allegedly said, according to an anonymous source.
Meanwhile, a group of about 30 people, including several artists, staged a silent protest inside the art gallery today, mingling with members of the public and holding up prints of the banned Nasheed paintings.
The exhibition was open to the public with free entrance.
The protesters also carried placards calling for freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed by the constitution and stuck posters on the gallery walls that read, “Not free yet!” and “Minimum 50 years in prison.”
“The function of freedom is to free someone else,” read one of the posters, quoting Chinese dissident and Nobel laureate, Ai Weiwei.
“The work of art was a scream for freedom. Minivan [independent] 50 has not reached us yet!” read one of the placards held up by a protester.
An artist at today’s protest, Kareen Adam, told Minivan News: “The state cannot dictate to us what we can paint, draw, write or think etc. They should have called this exhibition ‘freedom within boundaries’ instead.”
Others artists said the organisers were sending a negative message to youth by banning the paintings of Nasheed, stating that former President Nasheed was an ineradicable part of recent Maldivian history.
Around 4:30pm – half an hour after the exhibition opened for the day – protesters told Minivan News that police asked them to leave as organisers had said the art gallery was closing.
A group led by Youth Ministry Coordinator Ali ‘Steps Ayya’ Shahid meanwhile arrived and began tearing down the material pasted on the walls.
“We will not keep paintings of terrorists,” one of the men allegedly said.
Protesters said the men tore down the paintings and ripped up the posters as police officers watched impassively.
A police officer was also photographed ripping a poster.
Police told the protesters that the men had clearance to enter the gallery as they had passes of government coordinators.
One of the protesters took a photograph of the men and was allegedly pushed away.
The men also pushed out the protesters from the gallery. Protesters who spoke to Minivan News asked not to be named as they feared becoming targeted and said they did not have confidence that police would provide protection.
The President’s Office has said students will continue to use the Jamaaludheen building until June in order to protect the interests of the students.
In a tweet posted last night, President’s Office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that President Abdulla Yameen had decided to extend the deadline given to vacate the building used by the Maldives National University (MNU).
Muaz announcement came just hours after the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure announced that the building was structurally unsafe, explaining the government’s previous request that police vacate the premises.
The decision had prompted concern from the university, the student union, and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who suggested that the lack of an alternative building would disrupt students’ education.
Muaz told Minivan News today that there are no contradictions in the matter, as the government still believes that the building is unsafe even though the deadline has been extended.
Housing minster Dr Mohamed Muizzu yesterday shared pictures from an assessment of the building done in 2013 with the media, showing severely corroded and damaged columns in the building, which is currently used by over 1,300 university students.
“Cosmetic work has been done in the building to cover up these damages,” he said.
“It is very irresponsible of certain individuals to say that the building is safe when it clearly is not. The building is not structurally stable from an engineering perspective.”
After ministers yesterday said the university had been unresponsive to offers of alternative teaching space, the President’s Office said today that the university would be given no more chances regarding the matter.
“President Abdulla Yameen is concerned for the education of the students,” said Muaz. “This government is not one which would forcefully strip the students from the building.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of MNU and former Permanent Secretary of Housing Ministry Dr Mohamed Shareef had said that the university has been informed of the president’s decision and is looking into alternatives for after the deadline.
Dr Shareef refuted the government’s claims that the university has been provided with alternatives to vacate the premises.
“The government spoke about land in Hulhumalé and Gulhifalhu. However, these plans were very vague and not written down on paper,” he said.
The deputy vice -chancellor also said that the university is trying to get an independent third party to do a risk assessment of the building to determine the safety of the students.
Students at Haa Alif Dhihdhoo atoll education center are protesting over the fact that there has been no chemistry teacher at the school for over 150 days, reports media.
CNM reported that the school had had no chemistry teacher since from September last year and that the students were being prepared for the O’Level examinations by a private individual.
As there has been no chemistry teachers since the academic year started three weeks ago, the school has not been able to have chemistry lessons.
According to CNM, the students have started displaying placards at various parts of the island displaying their outrage while also demanding that the education ministry to provide a chemistry teacher.
One such placard read that: ‘Even though the education ministry has said that there all teacher posts at the schools filled, it has been eight months since there has been no chemistry teacher at the school. Grade 10 students deserve all the support they could get. Do not lie Education Minister.’
President of the Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) Athif Abdul Hakeem has accused the government of intimidation after being summoned to the Ministry of Education following public criticism of new pay scales.
Athif told Minivan News that Permanent Secretary Dr Abdul Muhsin told him to “pay attention to public interests” while speaking publicly about the new teachers’ structure.
“I see this as an act of intimidation,” said Athif, who was told by the Mushin that the warning should not be interpreted as a threat.
In response, Muhsin said that although details of such talks are normally kept private, he denied having given a warning, noting that special regulations are in place within the civil service to formally warn employees.
“I did not give any warning to Athif,” stated Muhsin, who said that he could not comment on the new pay structure.
Athif has told local media that the pay rises promised by President Abdulla Yameen will not be realised, accusing the government of “lying to the community”.
Yameen had announced that all teachers will get a salary increment not less than one third of previous earnings.
Around 90 percent of the country’s teachers protested in September last year against poor pay and inadequate protection of teachers, prompting the government to enter negotiations as a full strike loomed.
Athif explained that the education ministry called him yesterday (January 28) to request he come to meet permanent secretary, in his capacity as TAM president.
“I told them that if I am to go as the TAM president, I can only go with my secretary,” said Athif, after which he was asked to attend in his role as the Majeediyya School’s Dhivehi teacher.
He went on to say that, during the brief meeting, Muhsin first asked whether the new teachers’ structure was displayed on the notice board of Majeediyya School.
“I told him yes. I also told him that he could have phoned the school and inquired about it rather than bringing me to the ministry,” Athif continued.
He argued that, according to the new teachers’ structure, certificate-level teachers will be paid less than the amount they were previously paid, affecting their overtime and Ramazan allowances.
TAM had tentatively welcomed the rises in salaries earlier this month, which pledged increases of between 35 and 15 percent depending on the qualifications held.
“We welcome the increases in salaries. We have some concerns, we will release a full statement after analysing the changes brought, if they satisfactorily meet our demands”, said TAM Secretary General Ali Nazim at the time.
Athif today suggested that the government wished to eliminate the layer of teachers at the certificate level from the new structure by the start of the next year but that “until the end of this year, they should not be paid lesser than what they are paid now”.
In November, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s budget review committee suggested that the government had not budgeted the required MVR532 million (US$34.5 million) needed to raise the salaries of teachers despite promises made by both President Yameen and Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel.
In a press statement, the college said that it has been contacted by concerned students believing that college operations might come to a halt after the “Ministry of Education provided not entirely accurate information to the media”.
“We urge the students to be patient, and to support the college management at this time,” read the press statement.
Yesterday, State Minister of Education Dr Abdulla Nazeer told Minivan News that the college was handed the notice as it was operating in violation of the agreement made with the government.
“The building was initially given to Malé English School (MES) in to operate a school. In 2008, the contract was renewed and MES signed a third party agreement with Mandhu College who then started using the building to run a college,” said Dr Nazeer.
Nazeer said that a separate letter was sent to Mandhu College inviting it to engage in negotiations with the government regarding the interest of students currently studying at the college.