Lale Youth International School principal denies assault charges

Former principal of Lale Youth International School, Serkan Akar, appeared in the criminal court yesterday and denied assault and battery charges made against him made by the Prosecutor General’s office.

In the court hearing, Akar denied the accusations and said charges against him were baseless, which included strangling and whipping a child with a belt. The charge sheet noted that two employees witnessed the shoving and heard the child being whipped, during the incident last Ramazan.

Akar’s defense lawyer Abdulla Shair told the judge the charges had many issues, such as no mention of a specific date on which the incident took place.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem said the PG had asked the court to summon the two witnesses.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) is currently compiling a case concerning abuse and other activities at Lale, which were reported by Minivan News last month. Akar has since tried to leave the country twice but was detained by immigration officials, who confiscated his passport.

President of HRCM Ahmed Saleem told Minivan News the Lale case was “very strange” and a “high priority” for the commission. A press conference concerning findings on the matter is imminent, Minivan News has been told.

The acting principal of the school Suleyman Atayev has told Minivan News that he is confident any allegations against the principal will be proven false.

Atayev was also critical of HRCM’s investigation: “They are refusing to tell us the nature of the complaints they are investigating. They are supposed be about human rights but they are not respecting ours.”

The Criminal Court of the Maldives had not responded to Minivan News at time of press.


PG sends Lale case to criminal court as principal resigns

The Prosecutor General’s Office will file a case against the Principal of Lale Youth International School, Serkan Akar, at the Criminal Court tomorrow morning.

Police confiscated Akar’s passport last Thursday after he attempted to flee the country, pending a police investigation into allegations of child abuse.

Deputy Principal Suleyman Atayev told Minivan News last week that Akar had a return ticket and was trying to escort two children to an Information Communications Technology (ICT) Olympiad when immigration stopped him at the airport, although staff at the school questioned why the principal had packed up his apartment.

Atayev said he was confident any allegations against the Principal would be proven false.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem said the PG’s office intended to prosecute Akar on charges of assault and battery, ensuring he remained in the country while police and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) completed their investigations into other allegations.

“The case is proceeding and his passport is held, but we need to prosecute if want to hold it any longer,” Shameem explained. “We are still awaiting some documents relating to his passport,” he added.

The PG’s office had attempted to file the case today, he said, “but the criminal court has this odd thing where they only take the submission of cases between 10am to 11am. We will submit the case tomorrow.”

Deputy Minister for Education Dr Abdulla Nazeer told Minivan News today that Akar had resigned as principal of Lale, and Atayev had been appointed acting principal in his stead.

“The replacement principal has arrived but he is on a tourist visa and cannot start work until immigration issues him a work permit,” Dr Nazeer noted, adding that the company behind the school, Biz Atoll, “only has the quota for one principal.”

“My understanding is that Akar’s resignation automatically means the principal’s [quota] is vacant,” he said.

Nazeer said allegations against the principal were of an individual nature and not necessarily a reflection on Biz Atoll, although the agency is responsible for the agreement between the privately-run school and the Education Ministry.

Earlier this month the Minstry said it had amended the contract with Biz Atoll to require the departure of Akar and the appointment of an appropriately-qualified principal within a three month window, and inserted a termination clause.

“We are waiting for the HRCM report, and based on that evidence we may review the Biz Atoll contract,” Dr Nazeer said.

HRCM said the commission’s report on the school will be released next week.


Four expats arrested for missionary activity

Four expatriates were arrested yesterday for suspected missionary activity, police have confirmed.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the four men were arrested yesterday afternoon, but he could not give further details as the case is still under investigation.

A teacher at Maafannu Madharusa, Aishat Rameeza, told Minivan News that four men entered the school office at around 10:00am and gave a book to a teacher and a parent, while she was present.

Rameeza said that they asked if the teachers knew a place called “Higher Education.”

”We said there are many higher educations,” Rameeza said. ”We thought they were asking about the faculty in old Jamaluddeen School, so we told them how to go there.”

She said the men then asked them where the local market was.

”When they were about to leave they gave a book to a teacher and a parent who was here, called ‘A story of redemption and steps to Christianity’, and said ‘here is a nice gift for you.'”

”We immediately informed the police but they did not seem to care,” Rameeza said. “We still have the book.”

Deputy Principal of Maafannu Madharusa Ahmed Farooq confirmed that four men came to the school yesterday and gave a book “of about 470 pages” to a pre-school teacher.

He said the school immediately informed the police.

”I heard they were arrested yesterday,” Farooq said. “They looked like they were Japanese or Chinese.”


Government shuts down Arabiyya School after cracked wall topples

The government has decided to shut down Arabiyya School in Male’ after cracks in the building caused a wall to collapse yesterday.

Nobody was physically injured in the collapse but the principal, Mohamed Rasheed Ibrahim Rasheed, said two students suffered shock.

He said that the school had been aware of the condition of the school’s walls six years ago.

”The school was built out of granite 20 years ago,” Rasheed said. ”We knew this six years ago and we had been informing the education ministry about the problem ever since.”

Rasheed said the education ministry promised to reconstruct the school but ”have no budget.”

”Senior officials from the education ministry came here yesterday and met with the school board,” he said.

He said the school would be closed temporarily and the students will have to wait until the ministry decides what to do with them.

He said he had recently told the education ministry that the walls of the school were very weak, “and that I would not be taking responsibility if a student got injured.”

Deputy Minister for Education ministry Adam Nazeer said the ministry had decided to demolish and reconstruct Arabiyya.

”We had finished drawing the chart of the building,” he said, ”and will be publishing in the gazette for submission of proposals by those who are interested in doing the job.”

He said the ministry would meet the school board to discuss what to do with the students in the meantime.

”We will arrange it in such a way that they can study with their classmates and their teachers,” he said.

State Ministry for Islamic Affairs Ahmed Shaheem said the ministry was very concerned about the issue and “regretted” that the students would be kept waiting without studying.

”The Islamic Ministry will help them in any way we can,” Shaheem said.

He noted that students who graduated from Arabiyya School “have never taken part in violence or crime.”

”I’m very confident that the education ministry will decide the best way ahead for them,” he said.


Parents reject foreign principal and shut down school

Parents have shut down the Shaviyani Feydhoo school for two days by refusing to send their children to school.

The school, which had around 170 students, was closed on Sunday and Monday because parents were unhappy that a principal had not been appointed despite the academic year having already started.

The previous principal, Mathew Varugees, returned to India at the end of last year.

Aishath Mohamed from the school’s parent teacher association said “The parents are not happy. The school is being run without a princiapal and it is affecting the studies of the children.”

“The old principal could not speak Dhivehi and many parents can’t speak English, so there was a major communication issue,” she said. “We had many issues to discuss but it was not possible and no one was happy with the situation. Even Mr Varugees agreed there was a communication problem – that is why he left, he said this school needed a Maldivian principal.”

Aishath said a senior teacher, Mohamed Shahid, had been running the school in the interim, “but he only agreed to stay until the start of the school year, when a new principal was promised.”

Parents have gone to the island office and demanded a new principal within the next two weeks.

Principal was arranged

Their story clashes with that of the Feydhoo councilor, Mohamed Mustafa Ismail.

“A principal was arranged for our school by the education ministry. Everything was ready including accommodation and transfer,” he said.

“But when the parents found he was not a Maldivian principal, they didn’t accept it. They gathered outside the island office and said not to bring the principal, because they would not let him set foot on the island.

“Obviously we had to let the ministry know that we could’t bring him here, and they have now said they can’t find a Maldivian for the position.”

Mustafa said while the parents had given the government two weeks to find a Maldivian principal, “it’s not like we can go to a shop and buy one. It’s hard to find Maldivians who are qualified for the job.”

He blamed the teachers for failing to show teamwork with foreign principals.

“Good teamwork is needed to work when working with foreign people, but the Maldivian teachers don’t like it and they tell the parents who then react this way,” he said

“By closing down the school the parents have got it wrong. It is not the solution.”