Schools across the Maldives opened Sunday for the 2019 academic year as the new government launched a breakfast pilot programme.
There are 213 schools with 73,035 students and 9,800 teachers, of which 7,900 are Maldivian and 1,900 are foreign nationals, according to the education ministry.
Providing a nutritious breakfast for all students was a campaign pledge of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and a target of his administration’s 100-day action plan.
The pilot programme was launched by Vice President Faisal Naseem at the Aminiya School in the capital. The 25 schools chosen for the pilot programme included three in Malé, one school each in the suburbs of Villimalé and Hulhumalé, and one school from each of the administrative atolls.
“The government’s target is to provide the best education that is provided in highly developed countries. This government will spend a record amount to reach that target,” Naseem said at the ceremony.
Education Minister Dr Aishath Ali appealed for cooperation from parents and schools to make the MVR50 million (US$3.2 million) programme a success as it would positively impact the health and education of students.
More than 14,000 students were provided with breakfast in their classrooms before the school session began Sunday.
The ministry aims to provide breakfast in all 213 schools for the second semester of this academic year, which is due to begin on June 9.
The largest school in the country, developed by Housing Development Corporation to accommodate 1,450 students, was also opened Sunday.
The seven-storey Huravee School in Hulhumalé, which has 54 classrooms, including two for students with disabilities, was opened by President Solih.
The new school also has two classrooms for skill-based learning, two laboratories and one floor dedicated for a library with separate sections for teachers and students.
“We will have the opportunity to assist students after school hours. There is enough space in the school,” Principal Abdulla Rasheed told the media.
Huravee School opened with 780 students and 80 employees. It currently teaches up to grade nine, but is planning to begin grade 10 in 2020 and expand to higher secondary or A’ Level education.
Education Minister Ali told the press last week that the new government’s main policy is to shape students on the basis of Islamic faith.
She also promised to work to provide equal access to education across the country despite obstacles posed by the geographical dispersion of the 186 inhabited islands.
The 200-day academic year runs from January 13 to November 24. Out of the 213 schools that opened Sunday, 144 are single-session schools.
The ministry is also conducting a survey to introduce single-session in all schools as pledged in the 100-day action plan.
Some MVR2.7 billion was allocated to the education sector this year, which represents about nine percent of the record 2019 budget.