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 the 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