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.



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Teacher’s Association welcomes salary hikes

The Teacher’s Association of Maldives (TAM) has welcomed rises to teacher salaries, but noted that the organisation needs to analyse the changes in order to see if teachers’ demands were “satisfactorily met”.

Speaking to Minivan News, TAM’s Secretary General Ali Nazim said the government had not yet released details of the new pay structure despite schools opening up for the new academic year today.

“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”, Nazim said.

The education ministry on Friday announced teachers’ salaries would be increased by 35 and 15 percent depending on the qualification they held.

Those with a Bachelors degree were awarded a MVR3,600 hike – increasing take home pay from MVR11,238 to to MVR14,894, and teachers with a Diploma Certificate were awarded a MVR2,600 hike – increasing take home salary from MVR8,671 to MVR11,337.

Teachers who hold other qualifications were awarded increases between 25 and 15 percent.

Vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed today said that the increment to teachers’ salaries would improve the quality of education throughout the country.

Ad hoc policy

Speaking to Minivan News regarding the implementation of the new curriculum for grades one through three, former education minister Shifa Mohamed stated that the introduction of the curriculum came without adequate preparation. Parents and teachers have not been properly briefed on the changes to the teaching style, approach and the aims of the curriculum, she said.

“According to a baseline study, communication and comprehension skills of students are decreasing. Teachers and parents must know that those skills are the skills that are to be targeted and improved through the new curriculum,” said Shifa.

She also 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. The ministry had made the decision due to pressure, she said.

“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.”

Shifa, who currently serves as the Malé City deputy mayor, also said that 14 political appointees were heading all the departments in the ministry despite the civil service regulations requiring otherwise.

“Despite the many political appointees, what we are seeing is the lack of planning and organisation. Quran, Islam, and Dhivehi textbooks for grade 1, 2 and 3 have still not been printed,” Shifa said.

The education ministry’s Permanent Secretary Dr Abdul Mushin said although the ministry had not printed all the books, they are compiled and ready for printing.

Muhsin claimed it was customary to print the final copies after hearing responses from students, teachers, and parents. He also assured that all lessons would be printed individually and made available to students as they are printed.

Opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed, in his message on the start of the new academic year, stated that the key to building a civilized and developed society is education, and stressed the importance of a single session school system.

Meanwhile local media have reported that parents of Feevah Island school in Shaviyani Atoll have closed the school in protest as only six out of 13 teachers turned up for work today. Haveeru reported that the school had not received text books.

Similary, Gulhi Island school, in Kaafu Atoll, local teachers did not turn up for work today in protest against the principal.

Furthermore, students enrolled at the new Hulhumalé pre-school were forced to go to school in plain clothes to the old temporary building as the education ministry had failed to find a party to run the new school on a contract basis.



Related to this story

Education Ministry hikes teachers’ pay by 35 and 15 percent

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

Teachers across Maldives take part in ‘black protest’

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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.

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Teachers Association threatens strike over pay discrepancies and education sector reform

The Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) has announced a nationwide teachers’ strike to protest against pay discrepancies and the state’s failure to improve the education sector.

President of TAM Athif Abdul Hakeem said the strike can go ahead any time, with all preemptive steps having been taken, but noted that a priority would still be given to resolve issues through dialogue.

Athif said 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.

Pay discrepancies

TAM president said  the association’s main concern is pay discrepancies:

“We are not exactly asking for a raise here, the government can never compensate teachers for their service, that is impossible. We are only asking to be treated fairly. There already is a huge gap between teachers’ pay and the pay for less qualified persons doing less work in other institutions. And now they have increased pay for some,” he said.

Comparing teachers’ pay with that of other institutions, Athif noted that an office assistant who hasn’t completed high school working at an independent institution will earn an amount equal or more than a qualified teacher with a degree.

“Such a teacher will earn around nine thousand rufiya in that assistant director level job. An assistant director at an independent institution will earn more than sixteen thousand. In health sector a nurse with a diploma will earn even more,” he continued.

‘Edhuru Vehi’ Flats

According to TAM, the meeting with the minister in December was cut short due to “lack of time” with some of the issues not raised during the meeting later shared in a letter.

One of the issues detailed in the letter was concern over the ‘Edhuru Vehi’ teachers’ flats in Villimalé . TAM requested the eviction of 27 flats already occupied by unqualified persons and the assurance that all flats were given only to “technical staff” in the education sector.

The letter stated that three of these apartments could be reserved for school heads and senior teachers traveling to the capital.
TAM said that if the issue was not resolved, the organisation would file a case with the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Education sector reform

Other major issues raised by TAM concerned  improving the education sector and the quality of services provided. According to the association, qualified young graduates are turning away from the sector due to poor pay and working conditions.

“Teachers should focus on each and every student in a classroom, but there are 35 students to focus on within 35 minutes. To compensate for this, parents have to pay thousands for private tuition. This is not free public education,” said the TAM president.

The association has requested that the ministry of education involve teachers in discussions regarding the sector. Last week, the association released a report titled ‘Education sector in a deep pit’ – highlighting the state’s “total disregard” towards the sector.

The report stated that 60% of schools in the Maldives are run without a principal, and contrasted reduced spending on education with significant increases in areas such as the military, political posts, and independent institutions.

Teachers’ complaints

An experienced teacher from Thaa Atoll School told Minivan News today that, even though the pay is no match for the work teachers do, they don’t always complain about it.

“They are very dedicated and they work really hard to improve the results. Teachers are never free from their work. They bring books to mark at home, they take extra classes, they guide students in extracurricular activities, they are on-call 24 hours assisting students, even during weekends.”

According to the teacher, the total pay (with salary and allowances) for the most qualified teacher at the school – with a degree in social sciences and a professional degree in teaching – is approximately MVR10,500.

“For most teachers it would be around MVR9000 or less. The person in charge of cleaning up the health center takes home around MVR16000” She said.

A secondary school teacher from Laamu Mundoo complained that overtime payment for teachers has been limited to just 5 percent of their basic salary, which is an average of MVR280 per month.

“We are told that even if we work more overtime hours we will not get paid for that. But how can we be teachers and not work overtime? We need to prepare lesson plans and teaching aids, we have to assist students in extracurricular activities and mark their papers and books, we have take extra classes for students who need that. So basically we are doing volunteer work here” She said.

A teacher from Thaa Atoll Madifushi said that salaries for teacher are often delayed and that the pay for January had still not been disbursed.

“And we don’t have access to teachers text books, chemicals or other equipment in most islands here,” she added.

Other teachers noted issues of retaining senior management staff who are not receptive to changes or the use of technology and modern teaching methods. They also noted the ministry’s failure to monitor schools in islands on a regular basis.

Only as a last resort

Athif reiterated that teachers will go on strike only as a last resort. TAM is hoping for parents’ support, and will be meeting parents through Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs).

“We are currently discussing the matter within our organisation’s committees, we hope parents will stand with us in this. This is about their children’s rights, improving the education sector is a national issue. The less we spend on this sector, the more we will have to spend on prisons. But if parents don’t act, and if the government refuse to act, we will go on strike. But only as a last resort,” Athif said.

According to TAM the organisation has 1500 permanent member and an estimated 4000 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.

“Foreign teachers work here on contract basis, so they are not involved in this officially. Even for local teachers, we are asking for their opinion. We will conduct a survey and see how many of them are with us and if they want to go on strike. It will be their decision. Even then, we will give a chance for the government to find temporary teachers to fill in during that period.” Athif said.

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