A school in Hulhumalé has recalled all of its textbooks in the wake of a controversy over pictures of churches and Roman Gods leading to accusations of promoting Christianity and paganism.
The books were introduced at the Gateway International School, formerly Lale Youth International School, after a British and Maldivian company took over its management amid allegations of corruption that sparked an inquiry by the anti-graft watchdog.
The books that caused offence were social studies textbooks for grades 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Parents of students reportedly complained over pictures of Protestant and Catholic churches and information about Roman gods and Egyptian pharaohs in the books. Miadhu, a local news website, accused Gateway of proselytising, with the headline “Hulhumalé Gateway School – a gateway to turning Maldivians to Christians?”
The education ministry promptly ordered a recall of the textbooks, claiming Gateway had not sought approval for their use.
Qualitat Education, the Maldivian company that runs the school in partnership with the British firm Gateway Schools, told local media it had shared its curriculum with the ministry, but was not aware the books had to be approved, too.
Qualitat will be using the textbooks developed by the education ministry for the year.
Moosa Rasheed, Qualitat’s managing director told newspaper, Mihaaru: “As we do not have time, we will be teaching from books checked by the education ministry and taught already in schools. But that is only for this year. Books specialised for the Maldives will be brought before schools start next year.”
He added: “The ministry did not ask us to teach from the national curriculum books. We decided to do because of the concerns raised by the parents; it needs to be addressed. So we will be using books from the national curriculum.”
Qualitat, in partnership with Gateway Schools, was handed the 15-year contract to manage the school in November, despite the Anti Corruption Commission advising the education ministry to reopen the bid.
The allegations of corruption were made when it emerged that Qualitat was owned by the wives of two high court judges. Anti-graft laws in the Maldives prohibit spouses of judges from partnering with foreign businesses.
In the resulting media outcry, the pair, Ganiya Abdul Ghafoor, wife of High Court Chief Judge Abdulla Didi, and Minnath Naseer, wife of Judge Shujau Usman, gave up their shares in the company.
It later emerged that Qualitat was set up a few days before the education ministry opened the bid and had neither the experience in managing a school nor had offered the lowest price.
The education ministry, however, claimed that the contract was awarded after considering the ACC’s advice.
On the same day, newspaper Mihaaru, published the findings of the ACC’s investigation, revealing fraudulent and questionable practices in the bid evaluation process.
The scores were subjective because the ministry did not make public its evaluation criteria, did not ask for supporting documents from applicants, and did not set standards to measure the ability of applicants to manage a school, Mihaaru reported.
Some 600 students are studying at Gateway International School.
Photos from Miadhu