The education ministry has threatened to sack four teachers from the southern islands of Thinadhoo and Villigili alleged to have taken part in anti-government protest marches over the jailing of opposition lawmakers.
The teachers from the Gaafu Dhaalu atoll and Gaafu Alif atoll education centres were handed notices “for participating in a political event calling for the release of a person under state custody”.
The education ministry cited section 271 of the civil service regulations, which prohibits employees from participating in political activities during office hours and restricts defamation of the state or government offices.
The four teachers facing dismissal are Nasrulla Afeef and Mohamed Ashraf from Thinadhoo and Shazmeena Siyam and Aishath Raqeeba from Villigili.
Shazmeena is a relative of Villigili MP Saud Hussain, who was released on Sunday after 23 days in police custody.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Nasrullah Afeef, a mathematics teacher for grades eight, nine and ten, said he does not deserve to be sacked as he did not contravene any regulation.
“The regulation does not prohibit participating in politics after office hours and calling for the release of a person under suspicion of a crime is not a crime,” the father of two said.
“Teachers and even the principal of the school participate in political events held by [the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives]. There are no restrictions when it comes to PPM. I don’t think this is fair for us.”
Musthafa Mohamed, the president of the Villigili island council, insisted that the two teachers from the island did not actually join the protest march.
“The rally was held in the evening. Shazmeena and Raqeeba were out on a ride with their children. They crossed the path of the rally but did not participate,” he said.
The education ministry has meanwhile denied media reports about teachers being sacked.
According to Acting Permanent Secretary Mohamed Saeed, the notice letters were an opportunity sent to afford the teachers an opportunity to respond.
“We have not made any decision regarding the teachers yet. Our Human Resources Management and Development Committee is currently studying the responses from the employees and will make a decision shortly afterwards,” he said.
Asked about the phrasing of the notices that suggested that dismissals were imminent, Saeed said it was “wording of a letter template”.
The protest marches took place in early August in the southernmost Addu City as well as the islands of Thinadhoo and Gahdhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll and Villigili and Kolamaafushi in Gaaf Alif atoll.
Of the four lawmakers who were in police custody at the time, Saud Hussain was the Villigili constituency representative whilst Mohamed Ameeth and Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim hails from Gahdhoo and Thinadhoo, respectively.
In May, the education ministry also suspended a school teacher from the island of Kanduhulhudhoo in Gaafu Alif atoll over a poem deemed offensive towards First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim.
An ambulance driver from the island of Milandhoo in Shaviyani atoll was fired in late February over a Facebook post deemed to be disrespectful towards the first couple.