Bank of Maldives introduces new loan scheme for teachers

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.

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Students protest lack of chemistry teacher at school

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.’

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President Yameen announces rise in teachers’ salaries

President Abdulla Yameen has announced a rise in teachers salaries from the start of the academic year this Sunday (January 11).

Speaking at a ceremony held last night at Dharubaaruge to inaugurate the salary scheme for senior players of national sporting teams, President Yameen stated that the increment will amount to over a third of the salary teachers are receiving at the moment.

Teachers strikes regarding pay and working conditions were narrowly avoided last year after the government entered into negotiations with the Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM).

Meanwhile, local media outlets have reported that the Ministry of Education will terminate the post of ‘leading teacher’.

The ministry’s Permanent Secretary Dr Abdul Muhsin stated that the school staff structure is being revised, resulting in changes to the scope of responsibility and tasks assigned to different posts.

While noting the revised staff structure has not been finalised, Muhsin assured that “all drafts of the structure have so far included the post of leading teachers”.

Last month, the ministry announced that the position of deputy principal was to be abolished, with the 188 individuals currently holding the positions transferred to different posts, and administrative staff taking their place.

Muhsin stated that he was unable to give any further details on the revised staff structure and salary hikes as neither had been finalised.

Around 90 percent of the country’s teachers protested in September last year – wearing black clothing to raise awareness over issues such as poor pay, inadequate protection of teachers, and the failure to grant the TAM official recognition.

The government avoided a full work stoppage just as strikes seemed set to go ahead, sitting down with TAM and creating a timeline in which to meet the demands of teachers.

TAM Athif Abdul Hakeem was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

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.



Related to this story

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

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

Teachers Association threatens strike over pay discrepancies and education sector reform

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Budget debate begins in parliament

The budget debate began in parliament today with opposition MPs criticising higher taxes and pro-government MPs praising planned capital investments.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs contended that the budget would bring “revolutionary” changes to the economy and spur growth, noting that recurrent expenditure of MVR15.8 billion (US$1 billion) would be covered by government income or revenue of MVR21.5 billion (US$1.3 billion).

The MVR6.3 billion (US$408 million) allocated for the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) – 24 percent of the budget – would see an unprecedented number of infrastructure projects launched in 2015, the ruling party MPs said.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs, however, questioned whether MVR3.4 billion (US$220 million) anticipated from proposed new revenue raising measures could be realised in full during the year.

MDP MPs also argued that the public would have to bear the burden of higher prices caused by import duty hikes and claimed the budget was “discriminatory” as constituencies represented by opposition MPs were ignored.

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Principals association calls on government to address grievances of teachers

No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan

The Principals Association of Maldives (PAM) has called on the government to address concerns raised by teachers, review the pay scheme, and identify education sector reforms.

In a press statement released on Sunday (October 5), PAM contended that wages were disproportionate to the extra hours put in by teachers and expressed concern with experienced teachers leaving the field at an alarming rate.

“Efforts to retain quality teachers and attract bright students to the sector should be carried out swiftly,” PAM suggested.

“Opportunities for professional development should be increased and broadened for [teachers] on the job. Teaching should be made an honourable and generous occupation worthy of people’s respect.”

Referring to the theme of this year’s International Teacher’s Day (October 5) – ‘invest in the future, invest in teachers’ – PAM called on the government to allocate large amounts in the state budget from 2015 onward to invest in teachers.

As teachers imparted knowledge, taught skills and instilled values needed by future generations, PAM stressed the importance of “thinking about the condition of teachers and taking into account their feelings and concerns”.

In addition to better pay and benefits, PAM suggested improving work environments as well as the quality of programmes and training courses conducted for professional development of teachers.

In her message on Teacher’s Day, Education Minister Dr Aishath Shiham pledged to provide more training and development opportunities for teachers and principals before the end of the year.

Dr Shiham expressed gratitude for the “hard and invaluable work” of teachers.

Noting that the most important aspect of education policy was implemented by teachers in classrooms, the minister said efforts were underway to prepare manuals or handbooks for teachers and parents as well as development plans for schools.

A detailed and longterm “subject improvement plan” would also be provided to teachers next year, she said.

Strike

Last month, the Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) called off a planned nationwide strike to hold talks with the government.

Following a meeting with President Abdulla Yameen, TAM revealed that the president had asked for a detailed proposal to address grievances about pay and other issues.

The proposal on revising salary for teachers and improving efficiency in the education sector would be submitted this month following consultation with the education ministry, TAM said.

The response from President Yameen was “positive” and TAM received assurances that a pay rise would be considered, the association noted.

PAM also noted that the discussions with President Yameen was a positive development.

“The government’s decision to sit for talks and compile a timeline [on meeting the demands] is a sign President Yameen himself attended to the teacher’s demands,” TAM President Athif Abdul Hakeem told Minivan News on September 21 after teachers went to work dressed in black.

Around 90 percent of teachers were reported to have demonstrated by wearing black to work.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had also announced its support for the strike should discussions with the government fail.

They have been asking for this raise from Maumoon’s administration, through Nasheed’s and Waheed’s administration and now into Yameen’s administration. It is with great sadness that we have to note that everyone has turned on a deaf ear to their pleas,” wrote MDP MP Rozaina Adam on her personal blog.

The Ministry of Education had earlier appeared unwilling to give in to teachers’ demands for higher pay and reform, while the Labor Relations Authority reportedly labelled the proposed strike as ‘not peaceful’.

A statement from the Civil Service Commission meanwhile noted that government was treating the potential strike as illegal.

Grievances raised by TAM include revised pay, protection of teachers and students, and official recognition of the association.

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Vice President pledges to raise teachers’ pay once state income increases

Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has stated that the government will review and raise teachers’ pay once the state income increases.

Speaking at a meeting with the school management staff of several atolls held in Nasandhura Palace Hotel on Sunday, Jameel also spoke of the policies for teachers which the current administration has introduced since it assumed office in 2013.

In addition to increasing the amount of pay that teachers can earn during overtime working hours, the government also introduced a scheme in which teachers can pursue studies while on pay leave, Jameel said.

He described the teachers work as a service done “in national spirit”, stating that they continue to work with extremely low wages, adding that the services are so valuable that it cannot ever be repaid.

“At the moment, there is no additional income to the state budget. However, I am aware of how to develop the Maldives. While we introduce huge plans and talk about needing accountants and hundreds of doctors or other professionals, the truth is that it all rests in your hands,” he told the education professionals.

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MDP national council resolves to organise Labour Day demonstration

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) national council adopted a resolution today to organise a demonstration to mark Labour Day (May 1) and call for the protection of worker’s rights.

The resolution (Dhivehi) submitted by the party’s Youth Wing Leader Aminath Shauna states that the MDP should organise a public gathering to call for the introduction of a minimum wage as well as for the Maldives to sign the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on Occupational Safety and Health.

The resolution noted that the MDP has been observing Labour Day since 2006 and that the Maldives became an ILO member state during the party’s three years in office.

Moreover, it added, Labour Day or May Day was made a public holiday and a Labour Tribunal to resolve employment disputes was established in December 2008.

Prior to the ousting of the MDP government on February 7, 2012, the resolution stated that a decision was made to introduce a minimum wage and a board was formed to monitor the policy shift.

However, “dictatorial habits” were returning with the current the administration allegedly violating the rights of workers and intimidating government employees, the resolution stated.

The resolution was passed unanimously by the 37 members in attendance. Today’s meeting of the national council was chaired by former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was appointed acting president at the last meeting on April 1.

During the debate on the proposal for marking Labour Day with a gathering, national council members expressed concern with the government allegedly discriminating against and intimidating MDP members working in the government.

Members elected to various posts of the party were unable to participate in MDP activities out of fear of losing their jobs, national council members said.

MP Rozaina Adam observed that the Maldives was the only country that provides social security benefits that were higher than some wages for full-time jobs.

Noting that janitors at schools were paid MVR2,500 or MVR3,000 a month, Rozaina contended that a minimum wage would discourage hiring migrant workers as more Maldivians would be willing to take jobs currently occupied by foreign labourers.

The introduction of a minimum wage would consequently bring down unemployment, she suggested.

MP Ibrahim Rasheed meanwhile referred to the death of two port workers earlier this month when a crane’s wire snapped while unloading a container.

Rasheed accused the government of negligence in the ports incident and contended that Maldivian workers across the country were treated as “slaves”.

The outgoing MP for Maafanu South urged the party to follow through on issues of concern after holding demonstrations.

Concluding today’s meeting, Nasheed announced that the national council will meet once a month.

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Teachers association to organise ‘black protest’

The Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) is organising a ‘black protest’ to draw attention to their issues ahead of a nationwide strike.

TAM President Athif Abdul Hakeem said today that as a protest, teachers will be wearing black to work on 6 April 2014.

“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,” Athif told.

A potential nationwide strike was announced last month citing pay discrepancies and failure to improve the education sector.

According to TAM, the association in January requested for a meeting with the minister of education for discussing their issues, but it has still not been arranged.

“The lack of communication between teachers and the ministry is a serious concern. We have written to the ministry but no actions have been take about these issues.”

Athif said that teachers are still working overtime without being paid for it.

“Independent institutions haven’t noticed this. If they don’t do those 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.

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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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