Opposition concerned at “interference” with educational institutions

The Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) education committee has expressed concern over rising government interference with educational institutions.

The committee has condemned the recent decision by the government to vacate the old Jamaaluhdheen Building, currently the location for Maldives National University’s (MNU) faculty of arts and other departments, catering for over 1,300 students.

“The students are all scared. They have been hearing that police are going to come and vacate the building. Even the student union has demanded answers as to where these facilities will be transferred,” said the MDP Education Committee chair Dr Musthafa Luthfee.

Media have reported that the President’s Office has requested the police vacate the old Jamaaludheen premises within seven days, prompting concerned responses from the university and the student union.

The President’s Office was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

“These students are unsure as to whether they could return to their classrooms they have been studying in,” said Dr Luthfee, who served as the minister of education during MDP’s administration.

An MNU statement released yesterday read that the sudden decision to vacate the premises is not viable without a building to move to, and that the university is saddened by the fact that the decision will halt the education of many students.

While the Maldives Police Services refused to comment, the President’s Office told media that the university was offered several other plots of land to move the faculties and that the government wants to vacate the premises due to safety concerns.

The MDP education committee also raised the issue of the private higher educational institute, Mandhu College, which was handed a 15 day eviction notice by the Ministry of Education earlier this month after the it claimed the college had breached the terms of its lease.

Mandhu revealed yesterday (February 10) that large number of students who have started courses at the college have started dropping out.

Also speaking at the press conference today, committee member Shifa Mohamed criticised the education ministry for intimidating teachers and putting them in humiliating circumstances.

“On one side the teachers are being told to go study and improve their quality, while on the other side they are being  intimidated,” said Shifa.

The committee had previously alleged that the structure of the recently announced salary increments for teachers was poorly planned and researched, and that it would leave a lot of teachers who do not fall into the criteria at a loss.

While the Teacher’s Association of Maldives (TAM) have also pointed out the weakness within the structure of the salary increments, its president Athif Abdul Hakim has accused the government of intimidation for speaking out against the new pay scales.

Athif told Minivan News that a letter of warning had been handed to him today by the head of Dhivehi Department at Majeedhihyaa School – where he works as a Dhivehi teacher – demanding he clarify in writing some of the comments he has made in the media.

Athif had previously said that he had been summoned to the education ministry and told by the Permanent Secretary Dr Abdul Muhsin to “pay attention to  public interest” while speaking publicly about the teachers structure.

Related to this story

Government had no choice but to increase teachers’ salary: MDP

Mandhu College denies violating agreement as eviction looms

Mandhu College experiencing 40 percent dropout rate

TAM President accuses Education Ministry of intimidation


Mandhu College experiencing 40 percent dropout rate

Large numbers of students who started courses at Mandhu College this year have dropped out, reports Haveeru.

College Chairman Ibrahim Ismail told the paper that forty percent of this year’s 1,200 new students had left.

The news comes as the college faces eviction from its campus, with the education ministry accusing Mandhu of breaching the terms of its lease.

Despite the college having disputed the claims, Haveeru reports that the eviction is due on February 15.

Source: Haveeru


ACC investigates corruption in teacher training bid

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will investigate corruption allegations made against the Ministry of Education by a private individual regarding the announcement of degree-level education for 2000 new teachers.

Speaking to Minivan News, ACC Information Officer Hassan Manik confirmed that an individual had filed a case, but refused to comment further on the ongoing investigation.

State Minister at the Education Ministry Dr Abdulla Nazeer, however, said that he was unaware of the case against the ministry, but that there was “some urgency” regarding the initiation of the degree programme.

After its president last week accused the ministry of intimidation following his criticism of recent changes to the sector, the Teacher’s Association of Maldives’ (TAM) has expressed concern over the ministry’s decisions, saying that a lot of teachers are concerned about job security.

“The association is concerned these abrupt decisions might have an impact on the education of the students as well. We sincerely request [the ministry] to refrain from making decisions which might weaken the profession, and cause some teachers to lose their jobs,” read a TAM press statement.

TAM President Athif Abdul Hakeem has publicly accused the government of going back on pledges to improve teachers’ salaries – the result of negotiations following a series of strikes last year.

The opposition has suggested that the qualification-based salary changes have resulted in 1,200 teachers applying for diplomas at Malé’s Mandhu College. The college has since been given an eviction notice by the ministry for an alleged breach of its lease – claims the college denies.

The complaint to the ACC regarding the teacher training claims the January 22 announcement was constructed in a way which unlawfully favours certain bidders, reports Raajje.mv.

The individual claimed that, with a deadline of February 5, prospective bidders effectively had only 12 days to prepare their offers, which was not enough to provide a detailed financial plan for a programme involving such a number of students spanning five years.

While claiming that some elements included in the bidding process contravened accreditation regulations set out by the Maldives Qualifications Authority, the individual is said to have alleged that the ministry was colluding with a Malaysian university.

Meanwhile, the ministry has published the new regulations on the provision of additional training for workers in the education sector, alongside a matching allowance to the 2015 salary, opening up the application for additional training.

A ministry press statement outlined the selection criteria for the programme and the points system for applicants, while giving a deadline of March 2 for applications.

State Minister Nazeer explained that the 2000 students to participate in the degree programme are not to be confused with the 2000 teachers who are to undergo further studies in order to bring them up-to-date with new minimum qualifications for teachers set out by the education ministry.

Related to this story

TAM President accuses Education Ministry of intimidation

Government had no choice but to increase teachers’ salary: MDP

Education Ministry hikes teachers’ pay by 35 and 15 percent

Teachers’ Black Sunday protest prompts government talks, strike decision pending


Decision on deputy principals yet to be made: Education Ministry

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education Dr Abdulla Muhsin has said that no decision regarding deputy principals has yet been implemented.

“I cannot confirm nor deny that a decision has been made regarding the post of deputy principals, the ministry is evaluating the impacts of a decision”, said Muhsin.

Following reports that the ministry was introducing new criteria for the post of deputy principals, Muhsin stated the ministry has asked schools to fill forms regarding the responsibilities, qualifications, and other work related aspects of deputy principals.

He also noted that it has not come to the point where the ministry must make announcements regarding the post of deputy principals.

Local media reported that under the new criteria set up by the ‘Staff Requirement 2015’ an individual must have completed at least a Bachelors degree to qualify the post of deputy principal.

Further, it has been reported that the ministry decided that just one deputy principal would be assigned to schools with between 500 to 999 students, and that only schools with more than 1000 students would be allowed to have two deputy principals.

Meanwhile Sun Online reported that Deputy Education Minister Azleen Ahmed described the decision to restructure the school management structure in such a way that deputy principals are assigned to schools in accordance with the population is “a strategic change to the education system”.

State Minister of Education Dr Abdulla Nazeer, speaking to state television last month, 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 government subsequently reversed the decision followed opposition Maldivian Democratic Party along with the Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) leading a public outcry against the move.

“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.

Speaking to Minivan News regarding the implementation of the new curriculum last week, former Education Minister Shifa Mohamed expressed concern over the government’s “indecisiveness and lack of consistency” with regards to changes brought to the school management structure, claiming the government had decided to remove the post of deputy principals and leading teachers, who play a decisive role in implementing the new curriculum.

“Deputy principals and leading teachers did not have the guarantee that they would have a job by the start of the academic year. That will surely affect their performance,” said Shifa.

Aside from the proposed changes to teachers’ roles, the government announced this month that teachers’ salaries would be increased by 35 and 15 percent depending on the qualification they held.

Discontent at low salaries was among a number of grievances that brought the TAM to within hours of striking before the government agreed to begin negotiations last September.

Related to this story

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

Teacher’s Association welcomes salary hikes

Teachers’ Black Sunday protest prompts government talks, strike decision pending


One-third of first graders have oral health problems, finds Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education has released findings of a health screening programme, revealing that 35.2 percent of first graders have oral health problems.

The screening of 6,331 Grade 1 students, aged between 6 and 7, concluded that 1,650 students have had extensive oral and dental problems, such as tooth infections.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Minister of Defence and acting health minister Mohamed Nazim said that, though there were no serious and alarming issues with the screenings, the majority of current problems are caused by malnutrition.

“Increasing number of underweight children indicate the presence of malnutrition,” said Nazim. “We have to determine whether the problem is hereditary or due to our behavior. We have to try and find an immediate solution to the issue.”

The report showed that the majority of the oral health cases were from Malé, Thaa Atoll, Laamu Atoll, and Haa Dhaalu Atoll.

The screenings – conducted in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Gender and the Maldives National Defense Force – showed ear related issues as the next biggest health problem faced by the children with 950 such cases.

The health screenings in Malé were conducted at Senehiyaa Hospital under the Ministry of Defense and National Security while the screenings in the atolls were done by various health centers in the atolls coming under the Ministry of Health.

Speaking at the launching ceremony of the report today, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed stated that one of the most important aspects of the government’s health policy is establishing mechanisms which will ensure the prevention of diseases in the country.

Jameel also said that such reports would fuel the efforts of all Maldivians to live a healthier lifestyle, while also aiding in the prevention and better understanding of major diseases in their early stages.

Speaking to Haveeru Dr Ali Shaahid from Senehiyaa Hospital noted that, even if major health problems were not discovered in the screenings, some parents were able to identify previously undiagnosed health problems with the children.

“Some parents were not aware of the fact their children had eyesight problems. Those parents found out only after the survey,” explained Shaahid.

Related to this story

Maldives “lagging behind” on tackling malnutrition

Nutrition awareness a “huge challenge” for Maldivian authorities: Children’s NGO

“Significant changes” brought to education sector, says minister


Police called to investigate bullying in Imadudheen School

Police have confirmed that they are currently investigating a case involving multiple instances in which an 8-year-old student at Imadudheen School has been bullied.

While the police declined from providing further information on an ongoing investigation, local media reports that the case involves the student being bullied multiple times, and the school management repeatedly failing to take sufficient action in the matter.

“We have been raising these concerns with the school management from the moment we became aware of it. We have submitted the complaint to the class teacher, the leading teacher, and even the school principal,” local media quotes the victim’s parent as saying.

“However, the problem has still not been resolved. We filed a complaint with the police finally when the class teacher threatened our daughter saying she will be expelled from school if she pursues this matter any further.”

Ministry of Education Media Official Maina Latheef stated that the matter has not been submitted to the ministry as an official complaint, although she explained to Minivan News that she was looking into the issue.

“We will be able to tell you more in detail about what actions we can and will take once we finish looking into the matter. However, we maintain that the act of bullying is unacceptable and no child must have to be subject to it,” she said.

Imadudheen School’s administrative office was not responding to calls at the time of press.


President appoints Deputy Minister of Education

President Abdulla Yameen has on Tuesday appointed Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim of Bodufendaage from the island of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani Atoll to the post of Deputy Minister of Education.

The Education Ministry currently has two state ministers and six other deputy ministers.

The current government has a total of 16 cabinet ministers, 5 other appointees at ministerial rank, 30 state ministers and 60 deputy ministers.


A National Enquiry on Access to Education for Children with Disabilities to commence hearings on Thursday

The National Inquiry on Access to Education for Children with Disabilities (AECD) along with the Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM) will be holding a hearing at the National Art Gallery from May 8 – 13th from 09:00 – 23:00.

The purpose of this inquiry is to look in to the practices, policies and laws related to the education for children with disabilities and to determine the States role in providing for people with disabilities in a non-discriminatory manner, with a special focus on the educational needs of children with disabilities.

The meetings will be used to collect statements from parents of children with disabilities. The AECD will then compile these into a report which they will present to the relevant Ministries, and the AECD will monitor how they are followed.

Representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education will also be present, said a member of the AECD.


Teachers across Maldives take part in ‘black protest’

Teachers across the Maldives have today (April 6) taken part in a ‘black protest’ – wearing black clothes to school – to raise awareness of pay discrepancies and what they see as the state’s failure to improve the education sector.

“This is the first step, we want to draw attention to these issues. For the sake of our students we will go to work until we exhaust all other ways,” said Teachers Association Maldives (TAM) president Athif Abdul Hakeem.

One teacher told Minivan News that the move has come after repeated attempts to work through official channels.

“The reason we are doing this to express our grievances. Our discontentment with salary and allowances, lack of resources and and other issues we face in teaching,” stated Mausoom Saleem of Thaajuddheen School, Malé.

Athif had previously explained to Minivan News that teachers were working overtime without being paid for it.

“Independent institutions haven’t noticed this. If they don’t do this work it could be reflected in their appraisal, and they even fear termination. So they work. But without getting paid for the work,” he said.

Teachers’ overtime allowances have been reduced to just five percent of the basic salary, which on average amounts to less than MVR300 per month. But teachers have complained that school will not run without teachers doing overtime work.

In a letter sent out to schools prior to the protest, the Ministry of Education had said that pamphlets distributed by the TAM consist of false allegations that might create conflict and unrest, it has been reported.

The ministry also stated that since school premises are “dignified”, teachers must not do anything that may have a negative effect on students, reported local media Haveeru.

“Therefore, no one must participate in an an activity encouraged in the documents distributed under the name of Teachers’ Association on April 6. Please inform the teachers working in your institutions accordingly,” the letter was said to have read.

One ministry official with whom Minivan News spoke today denied there was any protest happening, and was unwilling to provide further comment.

Show of solidarity

Saleem – who has worked as a teacher for 10 years, with 8 of those at Thaajuddheen – explained that an estimated 60% of the teachers were taking part in the black protest.

“I don’t think wearing a specific colour to school will have any impact on the students. I believe they will understand that we are doing this for them. This is not just about teachers, this is about the education system.”

Parents, too, he noted were taking part in the protest by dropping off the children today wearing black.

“I think this was a display of solidarity. We are also seeing a lot of pictures [of people wearing black] on social media, with supportive comments.”

Teachers from Thaajuddheen School take part in the 'Black Protest'

Another teacher taking part in the protest– who wishes to stay anonymous – spoke with Minivan News today. The source stated that as well as marking, there are other demanding after school and weekend functions that teachers are expected to work without getting any overtime pay.

“I have never been paid any overtime,” stated the source, who has taught in the Maldives for three and a half years. They gave the example of working the Founder’s Day celebration which took place across many schools and organisations- “we had to work the function and we didn’t have a choice. This was 8 hours work during the day on our day off, with no payment and no choice.”

“I personally don’t have adequate time to plan, I have too many lessons after they recently changed my timetable.” In a previous school, the source stated they had taught for 18 periods per week – that has recently gone up to 31.

Free periods are often time that teachers will use for planning, marking, ensuring children get to their next lessons safely, or after school activites.

“I have 11 free periods, but we also do after-school clubs, I run an extra support class where I teach children for an extra hour after the lesson.”

“I may not be teaching, but these things are not taken into consideration,” the source stated.

TAM President Athif said  in February of this year that meetings with the Education Ministry had resulted only in the promise of more meetings.

“So in late January (2014) we requested to arrange a meeting but there was no response. So sent another letter this month. now we are waiting to discuss our issues. our next step will depend on how that goes,” Athif said.

According to TAM the organisation has 1,500 permanent member and an estimated 4,000 Maldivian teachers across the country who will participate. Recent Civil Service Commission data shows there to be 5,676 teachers in the Maldives – 4,855 of them are locals.