Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed
The Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) has announced an indefinite strike starting on this Tuesday (September 23) should the government not meet its demands for reform.
Members at a meeting held in Ameeniyya School on Friday night resolved to stop teaching indefinitely if the government did not adhere to demands which include revised pay, protection of teachers and students, acceptance of TAM, as well as general improvements to the sector.
“Once we strike, there is no turning back. The options are death or success. God willing, we will only stop once we have achieved success,” TAM president Athif Abdul Hakeem said at the meeting.
Teachers will repeat April’s ‘black protest’ by attending work dressed all in black tomorrow (September 21), and have promised to halt lessons on Tuesday if authorities fail to initiate talks by Monday.
“If the [government] does not make use of the opportunity for talks, we will strike indefinitely,” he said.
Despite repeated requests for discussions, the Education Ministry has refused to engage with the TAM, Athif said.
“We have expressed concern over issues in the education sector and called for talks in six different letters. They did not answer any letter or call for talks or give us information. This means they do not accept Maldivian teachers.”
Athif claimed education sector policymakers had deceived President Abdulla Yameen of the issues facing the education sector, and said he had hope Yameen would address the challenges.
“President Yameen does not know of the issues we teachers face. President Yameen has been deceived. Appointed leaders are showing him a different picture.”
The association has threatened direct action on a number of occasions in recent months.
“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 told Minivan News in February.
“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,” said Athif.
Prior to April’s demonstration, the government reportedly refuted the claims made by the Teacher’s Association, warning against any activities that might negatively affect students.
Athif has previously noted his organisation’s desire to continue teaching until all other options had been exhausted.
Other major issues raised by TAM have 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.
In February the organisation also released a report titled, ‘Education sector in a deep pit’ which highlighted the state’s perceived “total disregard” towards the sector.
The report stated that 60% of schools in the Maldives are run without a principal, contrasting reduced spending on education with significant increases in areas such as the military, political posts, and independent institutions.
Individual teachers have highlighted insufficient overtime pay, overdue salaries, inadequate resources. and poor government oversight as major issues of concern,