Saturday, October 4, 2008

As Maldives celebrates Teachers’ Day…

Even as Maldives celebrates yet another Teachers' Day, few teachers are in a celebratory mood. The profession today faces unprecedented challenges that threaten its very vision as a body capable of guiding the next generation of Maldivians to their maximum individual potential, while instilling in them religious and cultural values and fostering among them social unity and harmony, and love and pride in the nation.

Maldives Association for Teachers' Link, a recently formed NGO of teachers, has identified 16 points that must be addressed urgently to revitalize the profession. Teachers' Link founder member Abdul Qadir Ismail says the priority points among them are related to quality of education, teaching environment and teachers' salaries and benefits.

Teaching is a noble humanitarian service no doubt. But like any other profession, teachers also deserve a certain minimum standard of living commensurate with their contribution to society. An increasing number of teachers today feel that they are being left out in the redistribution of the economic pie that is taking place as a consequence of the reform movement. While the salaries of some public servants have increased tenfold in the past decade, teachers' salaries have remained more or less stagnant. If this trend continues, Qadir says, it will become increasingly difficult to retain good teachers in the profession and maintain quality of education.

Qadir says that teachers' salaries have declined relatively in the past 3 decades when compared to other government servants in the atolls. For example, throughout the 1980s and right up to the mid 90s, teachers were second only to atoll chiefs in terms of salary. All that has changed now. In round after round of periodic government salary hikes, teachers have been sidelined. As a result, many professionals who were paid much less in the 1990s today earn much more than teachers. For example, magistrates today earn about 20,000 rufiyaa per month, compared to about 4940 rufiyaa for a grade-five teacher. Even a mudhim earns almost as much as a teacher. Atoll chiefs today earn 35,000 rufiyaa per month while assistant atoll chiefs earn 12,000 rufiyaa.

Inconsistency in providing housing is also a major issue for teachers, Qadir says. Some teachers get housing flats at very nominal rents, while others don't get even a housing allowance. Many teachers today live in rented accommodation paying much more than their salaries.

Teachers' salary scale was in the making since 2002, and was at long last adopted last year. However, it is yet to be financially implemented. Qadir says it is difficult to accept the excuses put forward for the delay, such as lack of budget and shortage of finances. He says provisions could have been included in this year's budget itself because the new salary scale was adopted as early as last November. On the other hand there is a long list of unbudgeted salary hikes implemented this year, including increased salaries for majlis members, independent institutions, etc.

Coming to the quality of education, Qadir says there are serious problems with the curriculum, physical facilities and discipline. The Law on Children's Rights introduced in the early 1990's is a major impediment to maintaining discipline, he says. Because of the law it has been difficult to take any action on pupils who misbehave and distract others. According to Qadir one of the reasons why Ahmediyya School has been able to maintain high grades is because the management insisted on taking strict action on unacceptable behavior, despite pressure from the authorities.

Teacher's Day is an opportunity to reflect on the status of the teaching profession. Unless we as a nation are prepared to give teachers the decent life they deserve, they as a profession will not be in a position to command the respect of their students and raise them as responsible citizens.


Anonymous said...

The fact that any meaningful and longterm staff development and capacity building for teachers is almost non-existent shows the lack of serious commitment to the teaching profession by the Ministry of Education.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The two most important social sectors for any country are Education and Health.

Recognizing this, all international donors, especially World Bank has has poured hundreds of Millions of dollars into Maldives. In comparison, the World Bank lends only a tiny fraction to the other sectors such as tourism.

Ideally, the story modern Maldives SHOULD HAVE BEEN the enormous success of education and health sectors. The World Bank and donors certainly did their part with best of intentions.

But sad reality is that these two sectors are the most corrupt. In comparison to Tourism Sector, Health and Education they are No 1 and No 2 in the corruption table, because they simply got most money from budget and other sources. Tourism may be corrupt, but we still managed to be internationally competitive. So I will forgive tourism.

In contrast our social sector are pathetic.

Education and Health sectors have very similar feature too.

1. Large bureaucracies and many staff
2. Incompetent and non-technical management.
3. Lack of quality and standards
4. Lots of construction activities such as schools and hospitals.
5. Abuse of human resources, such as teachers (subject of this post)

I believe this is where we failed in the last 20 years. Our social sectors and the people who were in charge of the Health ministry and education were simply not up to the standard. In contrast, we may have had crooks running the tourism sector but they produced a world class product.

Hope there are lessons in this.

Anonymous said...

The last anonymous commenter failed to grasp that tourism was developed by the private sector, the government role being only regulatory. Social sectors cannot be developed that way because if left totally to private sector, then services will not be affordable. If you expect schools to teach without taking any fee, or just a nominal fee, then the private sector cannot do it. If government sector runs the schools then they need staff. That is why there are many staff. Just imagine what would have happened if the government tried to run all the resorts itself?

Anonymous said...

Tourism was not developed by Private sector alone.

Airport, infrastructure and good regulations were provided.

But yes, private sector took the lead role. And why cant we sell Heath care and Education Services?

These sectors can also be run with private capital - while providing all the education and health needs of Maldives and attracting students and patients from abroad.

But yes, then there will be less bureaucratic influence, which some may not like.

Anonymous said...

We as a nation have failed to give professionals and intellectuals the respect that is their due. Never has any profession been allowed to develop and flourish so that professionals can do their job properly and with professional pride, free of political interference. And teaching has fared the wosrt.

Nazeer Ahmed Jamaal said...

Whether ye show what is in your minds or conceal it, Allah calleth you to account for it. Never brake promses and you will end up liike Hitler.

Anonymous said...

Where are all the teachers who were trained? Some are so selfish.

We see some people even doing business without serving their bonds.

some even stayed abroad..

Is that Maumoon's fault? No.

Farooq Mohamed Hassan said...

This year's Teachers' Day came just after months of the first ever strike by teachers.

Nonetheless, the speech delivered by the Minister in charge of Education in the current transitional Government was hollow, empty and dry. Like in all previous years, she repeated her old mantra. It was more like a Friday sermon of this autocratic regime - boring and without relevance to the challenges and issues that matter to the public.

She expressed no remorse for failing to address their modest and justifiable grievances. She offered no regrets or apologies. Completely ignored the demands they have submitted to her and to the Government, just a few months ago.

She passed all the responsibilities of inculcating knowledge and values in our children to the teachers. She urged the teachers to carry on their duty as a sacred duty. Her message was simple. speak no evil, hear no evil and see no evil. And for good reasons! If they do, they would certainly see the ministers, MPs, and members of the various so called 'independent' commissions sucking our budget dry. Ooops! I hope the 'Blue Party' will not threaten to take me to court. That would be a privilege, by all means!

As a parent, I thought the Minister would grasp the occasion to send a loud and clear message to the Presidential contenders, to the transitional government and to the members of the Majlis, to acknowledge the grievances of the teachers and to work collectively to address the demands of the teachers and to work for their betterment. I thought, she would offer them a 'Birthday Gift Package' to uplift their already low morale. Unfortunately, there was none!

After all, what can you expect from such selfish bureaucrats, when teachers themselves have become victims of inferiority complex, and are unwilling to stand united, even on matters of common interest?

I only hope that they have the courage to express their collective strength and to speak with one loud vice, come 8th October 2008.