10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Maldives
The Republic of Maldives is a prime example of a nation that has seen tremendous development and a transformation in the quality of life over the last half-century. Formerly among the least developed countries in the world, the Maldives has achieved upper-middle-class status with one of the highest life expectancies at birth worldwide. These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Maldives demonstrate the achievements of the cooperation and efforts of many sources:

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Maldives

  1. The Maldives is one of only five countries to graduate from the U.N.’s least developed countries (LDC) designation, achieving upper-middle-class status in 2011 in part because of its eradication of extreme poverty and vastly improved rates of life expectancy.
  2. The Maldives has seen the greatest increase in life expectancy at birth of any country over the last 59 years. According to the World Bank, Maldivians’ life expectancy has risen from 37 years in 1960 to 77 years in 2016. That’s one year lower than the United States, at 78, and above the worldwide average of 72 years. The 40-year improvement is well above the 19 year increase worldwide over the same period.
  3. The Maldives met five out of eight of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as of 2011 and is on track to meet its Sustained Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. The SDGs are an extension of the health, financial and infrastructure MDGs set by the U.N. to equalize global development by 2000. Millennium goals to conquer poverty, hunger, child mortality, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, as well as to achieve universal primary education and improve women’s health are considered fully achieved. Sustained health goals are a focus for the Maldivian government, including implementing successful initiatives to improve health, end hunger, improve nutrition, food security and apply sustainable agricultural practices.
  4. Foreign aid efforts by the World Bank, AusAID and the EU and the governments of several individual nations have played a vital role. Aid began in the 1980s with infrastructure improvements to Maldives’ fisheries and central airport, providing income for 20 percent of the population involved in fishing and improving the transport of aid and foreign resources by air. Education and training projects totaled $39.2 million by 2000 and aid increased after the 2004 tsunami to include $14 million in emergency funds.
  5. The United States has provided long-term aid to the Maldives since 2005. Projects sponsored by USAID helped restore water supply systems, upgrade sewage systems and power facilities and improve financial operations. Other United States aid efforts from the CDC are currently helping the Maldivian Ministry of Health monitor and treat communicable diseases like influenza across the country.
  6. Investments in health initiatives and the availability of care have dramatically improved life expectancy in the Maldives. The Maldivian government spent 7.5 percent of its gross national product on healthcare in 2004 and 13.7 percent in 2014, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The nation has had a universal healthcare system since 2011,  and with help from WHO, eradicated Lymphatic Filariasis in 2016 and Measles in 2017. Mass drug administration, preventive chemotherapy and a political commitment to vaccinate children helped achieve eradication, with 99 percent of children under 12 having received a Measles vaccine as of 2017.
  7. Significant improvements in the health of women and children have been reported since 1990. In 2017, the fertility rate was at an all-time low, with only 2.1 births per woman rather than six in 1990. This drop contributed greatly to improvements in maternal health and quality of life for Maldivian children. Mortality rates for children under 5 years old dropped to eight in 1,000 births, helped by the increase in births attended by a healthcare professional from 70 percent in 2000 to 96 percent in 2017. Early childhood malnutrition, however, remains a serious threat to future life expectancy in the Maldives.
  8. Improved water quality and sanitation have decreased infectious disease outbreaks. At least 99 percent of Maldivians had access to improved water sources in 2015, with 98 percent reporting improved sanitation. However, inadequate waste disposal has continued to lead to water stagnation, worsening outbreaks of Dengue in certain areas.
  9. Maldives status as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) put it at risk of devastation from environmental change. The lowest-lying nation in the world, Maldives highest point is six feet above sea level, with several islands having already been evacuated due to flooding caused by rising oceans. Increasing numbers of young Maldivians migrating to urban centers face overcrowding, increased drug use and strained resources, as well as economic difficulties resulting from an unemployment rate of 23.5 percent in 2016. Health consequences arising from urban lifestyles, namely malnutrition and obesity and increased rates of heart disease, cancer and other non-communicable diseases, threaten future life expectancy in the Maldives.
  10. Current and proposed initiatives hold promise for overcoming environmental and health challenges. Five current World Bank projects are targeting preservation of the nation’s marine ecosystems, while five programs in the pipeline aim to diversify a Maldivian economy threatened by dependence on fishing. At the same time, health providers are focusing on mental health and contraceptive services, while policymakers tackle gender-based violence and public hygiene.

Progress in health and sanitation, as well as investment and aid from international NGOs, have enabled Maldivians to live 40 years longer than they would have two generations ago. As a Small Island Developing State, however, Maldives faces threats from climate change. These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Maldives show incredible progress, yet it is unclear whether the nation has now achieved the self-sufficiency to meet these challenges without further international assistance.

– Marissa Field
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in MaldivesThe South Asian island nation of Maldives is famous with people around the globe for its pristine beaches that attract over one million tourists a year. While the Maldives may be famous for its luxurious accommodations, the country still struggles with poverty and diversified economic development. In order to gain a better understanding of poverty in the country, below are the top 10 facts about poverty in the Maldives.

  1. Maldives’s economy has grown rapidly since emphasizing infrastructural development, offering many citizens hope of improved living standard. In 1980, Maldives had a GDP of merely $42.46 million. As of 2017, the country’s economy has risen to an estimated GDP of $4.51 billion, ranking it the 52nd highest in the world.
  2. Although GDP has certainly increased in recent years, the rate of economic growth in the Maldives has fluctuated. In the beginning years of rapid development, Maldives experienced as much as a 9 percent decrease in GDP due to political instability, global economic decline and a lack of diversified economy. Most recently, however, Maldives maintained a 7 percent economic growth rate.
  3. The service industry accounts for an overwhelming majority of the GDP in the Maldives at an estimated 81 percent, while industry and agriculture comprise 16 percent and 3 percent of the GDP, respectively. Although the service industry contributes the most money to Maldives’s economy, over 30 percent of the country’s 392,709 people work in agriculture and industry.
  4. The unemployment rate in the Maldives is low, with job opportunities for a large majority of people in the country. Due to increased economic development in the service industry, the unemployment rate in the Maldives has a projection of continuous decrease.
  5. Poverty rates in the Maldives have also steadily dropped as the economy of the country grows. In 2002, almost 23 percent of the population lived below the poverty line (defined as having anywhere between $1.90 and $3.10 a day). This number dropped to 15.7 percent by 2009, but poverty and hunger remain an issue in the Maldives. According to 2014-2016 estimates from the Asian Development Bank, 8.5 percent of the population suffers from undernourishment.
  6. Life expectancy in the Maldives has risen drastically catalyzed by rapid infrastructural and economic expansion. In 1960, the average lifetime of people in the country was approximately 37 years and has more than doubled to 77 years in 2016.
  7. School enrollment in the Maldives has surprisingly decreased since the country’s economic development. In 2012, 82 percent of primary school students completed their full studies, while this number was as high as 94 percent in 1996. This drop in academic persistence could be attributed to parental restriction and development of tourism industry that offers employment in early life stages.
  8. Despite lower primary school enrollment in the Maldives, the adult literacy rate in the country has increased and is currently at 98.61 percent. In young adults aged from 15 to 24, the literacy rate is at even higher 99.27 percent. Male and female literacy rates are relatively equal with 98.52 percent and 98.69 percent, respectively.
  9. Nearly half of Maldivians live in urban conditions (46.5 percent of the population). Urbanization in the country is a result of a migration shift as 44 percent of Maldivians shifted their place of residence, most to urban areas. This is most likely due to better work opportunities in the developed service industry.
  10. In the capital city of Malé, issues with population density have arisen, as 126,000 people (almost third of the population) claim to reside in the city. Of this number, only 57,000 are registered as residents. Population density is extremely high in Malé, with 59,570 people per square mile.

The Maldives has transformed its economy over the last few decades to become a luxury tourism hotspot. A drastic increase in the service industry, along with the small albeit present agricultural industry has allowed the country to improve its standard of living. Although the economy has rapidly grown, poverty for some people in the Maldives remains a reality. With a more diversified economy and population density issue resolved on the island nation, poverty will continue to decrease in the Maldives.

– Matthew Cline

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in the MaldivesMaldives is made up of over 1,100 islands with a population of 400,000 people. According to Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), they are trying to facilitate potential credit access with measures like the Credit Information Bureau and the “Credit Guarantee Scheme for small- and medium-sized enterprise financing.”

The Credit Guarantee Scheme

Launched on August 7, 2016, the Credit Guarantee Scheme was set up to encourage banks to loan money out to small- or medium-sized businesses, so that individuals can have easier credit access in the Maldives. The program was started for businesses, under normal circumstance, that were unable to secure a loan.

The Credit Guarantee Scheme “will guarantee 90 percent of the loan granted by the participating banks to commercially viable small- and medium-sized enterprises,” according to the MMA. For the program to work, businesses have to meet the following criteria:

  • The business must be registered with the Ministry of Economic Development as a small- and medium-sized business.
  • All shareholders/owners must be Maldivian.
  • The business should be registered with the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority.
  • There should be no overdue loans at any bank or financial institution.
  • The business must be financially viable.

The loan amount can either be 100,000 rufiyaa (approximately $6,450) or 1,000,000 rufiyaa (approximately $64,480). The interest rate is 9 percent and the repayment period is five years. The borrower can have a grace period of six to 12 months with zero collateral and an equity contribution of 20 percent. According to the MMA, in 2016, a total of 68 applications were submitted with a total value of 44,628,896 rufiyaa (approximately $2.9 million).

The Credit Information Bureau

The Credit Information Bureau, the first system of its kind for Maldives, holds the credit information of individuals who are requesting credit. According to Minivan News, “the creation of a formal mechanism for sharing credit information will improve access to finance for small and medium enterprises.”

Maldives’ main income is due to tourism and fishing. According to the World Bank, Maldives is considered to be an upper middle-income country because of the returns of tourism. Maldives poverty “declined from 23 percent in 2003 to 16 percent in 2010 based on the national poverty line.”

Maldives has also experienced a growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While the rate has been steady in developed countries, Maldives growth is relatively higher. According to Bangladesh Bank, the average growth in the last four years “has been approximately 6.8 percent, which is significantly higher compared to regional growth rates.”

The Maldives are attempting to establish credit for its people so that they’re able to open their small- and medium-sized businesses that were unable to apply for credit before. This not only helps the country but the individuals as well, so they have credit access in the Maldives.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in MaldivesDespite its beautiful beaches, blue lagoons and extensive reefs, Maldives is one of the poverty-stricken countries battling its developmental growth. Roughly 35 percent of Maldives is under 18 years old, making education a key area for social investment, especially in girls’ education. While the primary education is achieved equally by boys and girls, girls’ education in Maldives ends before they move to secondary education, which remains a big challenge for the Maldives government to combat.

The literacy rates for both adults and youth are the highest in the region and exceed the world average. Maldives has made such progress in achieving universal primary education with perfect gender parities, despite the devastating tsunami of 2005 that swept over most of its islands. However, it remains a challenge to ensure quality remains a key concern in primary education and to encourage girls to pursue secondary and higher education.

Facts About Girls’ Education in Maldives

  • 100 percent enrollment ratio in primary education
  • 99 percent of pupils starting grade 1 reach grade 5
  • 65 percent enrollment ratio in lower secondary education
  • 7 percent enrollment ratio in higher secondary education
  • 92 boys for every 100 girls in primary education
  • 112 boys for every 100 girls in secondary education

The government of Maldives considers gender disparity a non-issue and does not guarantee a free and compulsory primary education for all girls. The Maldives’ Ministry of Education’s 2006 statistics indicate that every primary school age boy and girl in the country are enrolled in primary school. Moreover, 99 percent of girls who have completed primary school have continued into secondary education. However, after the 2007 Asian Development Bank Assessment, the government is taking steps to encourage girls to pursue postsecondary education.

Challenges and Barriers to Girls’ Education in Maldives

Maldives is located on a 1,000 kilometer-long chain of islands where the cost of transporting teachers and students becomes an expensive affair. Since transportation among islands is expensive, many children are at risk of being invisible, meaning they are unable to receive an education or they move away from parents to attend school. In addition, Maldives is dependent on expatriate teachers, and the quality of education is uneven for the 70 percent that lives on islands far from the capital, where two-thirds of teachers remain untrained, libraries and separate toilets for girls are unavailable and children with special needs have little access to school. Because of the lack of training, especially in gender sensitivity, curriculum materials and textbooks have strong gender biases.

Due to strong gender biases, women’s participation in politics and senior management levels is very low. In ADB’s (2007) analysis, women constitute only 15 percent of the legislators and senior officials in Maldives, and only a third of government officials are female. Gender division of labor is evident in public service employment with women making up 54 percent of the temporary positions, primarily to carry out tasks that are culturally “suitable” to them. For example, in the sectors of education, health and welfare, women are supervised and managed by senior ranking male employees.

Improvements in Girls’ Education in Maldives

In a country where settlements are sparsely scattered across small islands, the government has established at least two primary schools in each atoll to improve girls’ education in Maldives. With support from UNICEF, the pilot initiative of child-friendly schools, which was started with 22 schools, was scaled up to 105 during the post-tsunami period.

In addition, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education have come up with a novel solution: a series of 20 Teacher Training Centres (TRCs), one in each of the atolls that make up the country. These TRCs provide teachers and students with a trove of modern online teaching and learning tools at the touch of their fingertips, thanks to banks of high-speed Internet-enabled computers, SmartBoards that allow for interactive training at a distance and a website being developed by Cambridge International Examinations that are adapted specifically to Maldives. The Maldives Government has recognized the importance of training school teachers and heads supervisors in child-friendly approaches.

Recommendations

A report suggests that a gender audit should be conducted at the institutional level, so issues related to the subordinate role of women in organizations are highlighted. There should be a political will to spark organizational structures that allow gender equality in the workplace, which in turn can encourage girls to continue school at higher levels, as well as to pursue learning in fields that have traditionally been male-dominated. School and teacher training focused projects should make their output, outcome and impact indicators more explicit about progress milestones in terms of closing the gender gaps.

Although there is a good enrollment of girls and boys in the primary school, gender disparity exists in access to and attainment in secondary and post-secondary education and vocational training programs. The stereotypical perceptions of gender roles limit girls’ and women’s mobility and restrict their educational participation beyond primary level, as such opportunities are available only in urban areas or city centers. Girls’ education in Maldives is very low at the secondary level and measures have been taken by the government to motivate girls to study further and take-up jobs which are male-dominated.

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

Elimination of Measles in Bhutan and Maldives
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads through air and direct contact. It is characterized by symptoms lasting from four to seven days, including a red rash, fever, cough, conjunctivitis and white spots inside the mouth.

Despite being a vaccine-preventable disease, measles continues to be the leading cause of deaths among young children worldwide. Since 15 percent of vaccinated children do not develop immunity from the first dose, one of the main reasons behind the high death rates associated with the disease is incomplete vaccination doses received by children.

The WHO collaborated with the ministries of health of low-income countries, U.N. agencies and local NGOs to stop the occurrence of measles outbreaks and unite multidisciplinary efforts to eliminate measles at a global scale. For instance, Bhutan and Maldives launched their Expanded Immunization Programs during the late 1970s, and have since exerted tremendous attempts to increase immunization services to the population.

Last year, the WHO confirmed the elimination of measles in Bhutan and Maldives, an achievement that labeled the two countries as the first two nations in the WHO South-East Asia Region capable of interrupting the endemic measles virus transmission ahead of the 2020 regional target.

 

WHO Praises the Successful Elimination of Measles in Bhutan & Maldives

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, acknowledged the dedication and hard work of these two developing nations by describing it as a “momentous public health achievement.” She stated that the elimination of measles in Bhutan and Maldives should provide hope and guidance for other low-income countries suffering from high mortality and morbidity rates caused by the infection.

Additionally, Singh praised both countries for the establishment of strong surveillance systems in collaboration with laboratories in order to conduct detailed case investigations and tracking for every identified measles case.

 

Effective Actions Toward the Elimination of Measles in Bhutan and Maldives

The Ministry of Health in Bhutan accredits this noteworthy achievement to the various initiatives implemented to get rid of the disease. One of the essential strategies that has contributed to the elimination of the disease in both countries was the introduction of childhood immunization plans and the Measles Immunization Coverage in 1985.

The ministry’s health secretary, Ugen Dophu, announced that Bhutan was able to immunize 98 percent of children, a high rate that exceeds the WHO’s childhood immunization recommendation of at least 80 percent. He also highlighted the important role played by parents in the process of eliminating measles in Bhutan and Maldives — parental cooperation and understanding led to the attainment of higher immunization rates among children.

 

Future Plans to Sustain the Fight Against Measles

The health ministry has designed various plans and strategies to prevent future measles outbreaks and ensure the sustainability of efforts toward the elimination of measles in Bhutan and Maldives.

Dr. Dophu asserted that the health ministry will also collaborate intensively with the WHO to carry out a mass measles immunization campaign, This effort should increase accessibility and affordability of the vaccine among children and adults up to 40 years of age.

Moreover, new health screening systems will be installed at each of the country’s entry points to urge people to complete the screening procedures, and subsequently, protect the public health at large.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to the MaldivesThe Maldives is an island country in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India and Sri Lanka. It consists of 1,192 coral islands, of which only 200 are inhabited and the rest are used for farming, industry or just accessible as a private resort.

Since its independence from colonial British rule in 1965, the Maldives gradually improved from least developed country status to upper-middle-income status in 2013. The success of humanitarian aid to the Maldives is notable and contributed greatly to its economic growth.

The country mostly received foreign assistance from Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates before 1980. However, in 1992, it received $11.6 million in foreign aid from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and Japan, which was intended for education, health, transport, fisheries and harbor development.

Although the Maldives is known as a great tourist destination, it is facing a unique danger of potentially disappearing into the ocean due to climate change and rising sea levels. In 2004, the country was struck by a tsunami, leading to massive destruction on its various islands.

Following the tsunami, the U.S. among many other countries provided $8.65 million and USAID contributed $1.9 million in foreign aid for reconstruction of the damaged areas. Libya sent almost $2 million in emergency humanitarian aid to the Maldives. The U.S also contributed $100,000 after a storm in May 2007 for disaster recovery assistance.

In January 2005, UNICEF, with the help of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office, provided educational supplies and other basic emergency supplies with a total value of $1 million to children in the Maldives who were affected by the tsunami, with an aim of returning them to school by the end of the month.

In December 2014, when a fire destroyed the generator of the largest water treatment plant in the capital city of Mali, India provided water aid to Maldives residents. Ten planeloads of drinking water and two warships with the capacity of purifying water through reverse osmosis systems were dispatched from India, helping almost 150,000 Mali residents.

The European Union contributed €4 million in humanitarian aid in 2007 and another €4 million in 2013 towards environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. This helped in the improvement of safe water, waste disposal, renewable and efficient energy development and coral reef protection.

Australia contributed almost A$1.3 million through the United Nations Development Program for Integrated Government from 2012 to 2018. This includes strengthening civil society organizations and the transparency of the justice department, as well as improving respect for human rights in the country.

The success of humanitarian aid to the Maldives is evident from the birth of the country up to recent times. It has aided in the development of the country’s infrastructure, increased its economic activity and helped with restoration after natural disasters. These examples demonstrate the short-term and long-term effects that humanitarian aid can have on developing countries.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in the MaldivesAs a small island country in South Asia, the Maldives ranks at 106 out of 144 nations in a 2017 global gender gap report. There are about 420,000 people in the Maldives, and its population density is among the top ten nations in the world. Women’s empowerment in the Maldives has been a heated topic for a long time.

As early as the fourteenth century, the Maldives had already been ruled by three queens. Sultana Khadija reigned this nation for about 30 years from 1347 to 1380. However, after the transition from monarchy to constitutional republic in 1960s, women in the Maldives were not allowed to become president until a new constitution came out and abolished that regulation in 2008.

However, women in the Maldives currently have a limited presence in political affairs. The 2017 global gender gap also reported that only 5.9 percent seats of parliament and 17.6 percent of ministerial positions are filled by females. In the past 50 years, there have not been any female heads of the state.

Since modern development has changed the traditional way of living, many women in the Maldives play dual roles, working and taking care of their families. In the Maldives, the overall rate of labor force participation for women is 59.6 percent, compared to 81.3 percent for men. Women take all sorts of occupations but remain primarily in education, nursing, administration or secretarial services. Those relatively special positions such as police officer also recruit women and provide equal opportunities.

Regarding educational attainment, there is almost no gender difference in literacy rates are primary education enrollment rates. For tertiary education, women’s participation (20.4 percent) is significantly higher than that of men (12.4 percent). In 2014, the ratio of female teachers in the Maldives reached 75 percent. Well-educated and trained young ladies often become teachers and medical workers in the islands, while most stay in the capital city of Malé due to career choices. Appointment as an island chieftain, is no longer dominated by males.

Women in the Maldives have the rights and indeed own land and real estate. Despite the fact that inheritance is generally in accordance with Muslim theology, any division of land will be based on civil law such that sons and daughters may inherit the same share of land. Women in the Maldives enjoy a personal freedom not shared by the majority of Muslim societies.

One case related to women’s empowerment in the Maldives was widely reported in 2013. A teenage girl was repeatedly raped by her stepfather, and for this she was to be punished with 100 lashes after reaching the age of 18. Thanks to a petition of two million people from global campaign network Avaaz ,and efforts from local groups on women’s rights, the Maldivian High Court reviewed the case and dismissed the sentence.

While women’s empowerment in the Maldives has not been restricted by official regulations, there remain aspects of ingrained culture that must be continually addressed as the nation moves forward.

– Xin Gao

                                                     

Infrastructure in the MaldivesUpgrading infrastructure in the Maldives is more important than ever. The Maldivian government has both its permanent and temporary residents in mind as it makes structural improvements to the Malé airport. Further projects include constructing a city on an artificial island called Hulhulmalé and building a friendship bridge connecting its international airport with the capital of Malé.

The Maldives is a tourist destination that ranks highly in visitor satisfaction, but it is also home to 436,000 people. The government must balance its priorities of ensuring the longevity of its islands and people, while also bolstering tourism, the country’s main industry.

With tourism and finances in mind, the expansion of its international airport is a logical next step.

Adil Moosa, Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited, said: “With the increasing flow of visitors to the Maldives, it was becoming a strain to maintain efficiency and deliver quality experiences due to numerous manual processes.”

These changes come after years of growth that anchored tourism as the Maldives’ main economic contributor. The airport serves close to 2.6 million passengers annually.

In order to ensure that the Maldivian people maintain their land above sea level, upholding the tourism industry is necessary for financial reasons.

The Maldives consists of 26 coral atolls and has a high point of less than eight feet above sea level. It has the lowest average elevation in the world. This puts the islands in serious danger of being submerged under rising seas.

To address this problem head-on, the country has invested in infrastructure in the Maldives, beginning with the construction of man-made islands. Hulhulmalé is one such island, situated near the capital city of Malé and the Velana Airport. Built by pumping sand from surrounding atolls, it is being fortified with walls 3 meters above sea level. The project is should be completed by 2023 and it will be able to accommodate about 130,000 people. Eight such islands have already been built and three more are planned.

Shiham Adam, Director of the Maldives Marine Research Center, believes reclaiming islands in this manner is the solution to the issue brought up by climate change. The people of the Maldives must have land to live on and jobs to work.

In the near future, the China-Maldives friendship bridge will connect Hulhulmalé, Hululé and the capital of Malé. The project budget is $300 million: $100 million has been provided in free-aid from China and a further $170 million was loaned by China with an interest rate of two percent. The Maldivian government is spending $30 million on the project.

The bridge will span from the eastern edge of Malé to the western corner of Hulhulé where the international airport is located.

A lack of bridges has been an issue in the development of infrastructure in the Maldives for years. Local residents have had to make do by traveling between islands via ferry.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Education in MaldivesAfter spending seven centuries as a sultanate, the Maldives became a British protectorate in 1887. In 1986, three years after gaining its independence, the country became a republic. Education in the Maldives is faring well, as the island spends about 5.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on education. 99.3 percent of its population over the age of 15 can read and write. The country’s functional literacy rate of 98 percent is the highest in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean region.

About 35 percent of the population in the Maldives is under 18 years of age. In order for the country to have a sustainable future, greater social investment in education is required for young children.

Schools in the Maldives are divided into three types: English language primary and secondary schools, Quranic Schools and Dhivehi language primary schools. Primary and secondary education in the Maldives is free. The country’s colleges and universities are managed by the Ministry of Education.

In the past, traditional education in the Maldives was the responsibility of religious leaders and institutions. Known as “edhuruge,” the schools followed the patterns of Quranic schools. Today, the British system of education is followed, but there are still several modern schools that continue to provide Arabic and Islamic education. The system of education in the Maldives is designed within a specific curriculum to foster cultural and religious values in students, as well as so that they may obtain training and employment opportunities. A typical curriculum in schools includes Dhivehi, mathematics, environmental studies, Islam, English, fine arts, physical education, handwriting and study of the Quran.

In 1998, the Maldives College of Higher Education (MCHE) was established and provided Bachelor’s degrees. Before MHEC, only primary and secondary levels of education were available and students who wanted to pursue higher education studies had to go abroad. Since then, however, Maldives National University condensed and upgraded the existing facilities of MCHE in 2011.

UNICEF and the Ministry of Education have created tsunami recovery programs that have enhanced development, raised educational standards nationally and integrated schools in dispersed areas of the islands. This has included construction of teacher resource centers, programs encouraging active involvement of caregivers in children’s learning, revision of curriculum to reflect national development priorities and knowledge-sharing initiatives at both national and local levels.

There are several vocational training centers and schools scattered throughout the islands. The Vocational Training Center in Male offers training in subjects such as engine repair and maintenance, refrigeration, electricity, welding and machinery. A Rural Youth Vocational Training Program is maintained by the Maldivian government and provides training in atoll localities. Other schools in the country include the Maldives Center for Social Education, Maldives Institute of Technical Education, Science Education Center and Arabic Islamic Education Center.

UNICEF has noted the success of the child-friendly teaching methods which have caused many communities to voluntarily join the educational system. In order to expand participatory learning into secondary schools to continue learning opportunities for interested students, the government of Maldives has developed its own national development programs.

The government of the Maldives needs to maintain and sustain its educational investments and devise innovative solutions to the problems of travel and distance that prohibit many students from learning in an institutional environment. The young population of the country will be the future job-seekers – and leaders – of the country. As such, they deserve the best opportunities education can provide.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in MaldivesThe Maldives—a nation composed of over 1,000 islands and known as a tropical paradise—has a dirty little secret: the world’s largest trash island.

A few miles from the capital city, Malé, an artificial island has been built in order to solve Malé’s trash problem. However, with over 10,000 waste-producing tourists visiting the Maldives each week, the trash island has grown into a pile covering over 124 acres. While tourism has sparked a healthy economy and turned the Maldives into the richest country in South Asia, the industry is consequentially producing an environmental burden with the unsustainable creation of waste. The trash island “grows” nearly one square meter each day. The island—named Thilafushi—is concerning environmental campaigners at an alarming rate.

The waste is brought to the island on ships and taken ashore, then sifted through by hand. While some trash is incinerated, the majority of waste is buried in landfills. As a result, environmentalists are “seeing batteries, asbestos, lead, and other potentially hazardous waste mixed in with the municipal solid wastes being put into the water.” Malé environmentalist, Ali Rilwan, notes, “these wastes are a source of heavy toxic metals and it is an increasingly serious ecological and health problem in the Maldives.”

Some of the reasons Thilafushi is such a big problem are very simple. Firstly, the islands of the Maldives are small, which means so are the freshwater sources. By housing large amounts of waste, water contamination is bound to occur and according to Rilwan, it is occurring. Secondly, because of the small landmass and the large tourism industry, waste is going to be produced and it has to go somewhere. At this point, India is being paid to take some of the waste.

Fortunately, water quality in the Maldives is more of an anticipated problem than it is a present one. According to the U.N. Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water, access to drinking water is high. While water degradation due to salinity and pollution make the access challenging, the U.N. reports over 90 percent of the Maldives do have access.

In response to the call for improved quality, the nation has set forth a number of specific goals, including keeping rural water supplies functioning long-term, improving continuity of urban water supplies and rehabilitating broken public facilities. The Maldives has embraced financing a WASH program, which recognizes drinking water and sanitation as a human right.

The government is active in making the right to drinking water a reality across the islands. After taking notes from the problems of small freshwater resources and the pollution that is seemingly unavoidable as a result of tourism, the government has joined with Aquaver and Stelco—a power company—to address the problem with a new idea: desalination plants.

To better ensure good water quality in the Maldives, the partnership is seeking to build a desalination plant on every island, in order to provide a safe and reliable drinking source that also has an energy-producing capacity which capitalizes on the heat exchanges that occur during the desalination process. The plan includes distribution kiosks with reusable containers. Overall, this would reduce waste and increase access to high-quality water, which directly aids the Maldives in solving two pending problems.

With the government’s careful monitoring and proactive initiative with local businesses, the future for water in the Maldives is looking good. In the recent past, water quality in the Maldives has been a quiet topic, as it brings hidden secrets—such as Thilafushi—into the conversation. However, by revealing what is damaging the water quality and addressing the issues with innovative solutions that grow business, increase safe water access and remove one less piece of trash from the nation’s waste, the future looks nearly as crystal clear as its famous beach waters.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr