ARC expresses concern regarding the conditions prevailing in the Education and Training Center for Children (ETCC) in Maafushi

Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) has expressed serious concern over the conditions prevailing in the Education and Training Center for Children (ETCC) in Maafushi. At a meeting held today to brief the Juvenile Justice Unit (JJU) of the Ministry of Home Affairs on the findings of ARC’s field visit to ETCC, ARC also submitted a report which raises several issues that need to be addressed urgently.

The shelter is currently under the purview of the Ministry of home Affairs, under a two-year lease from the Ministry of Law and Gender, which allows both Ministries to place children at ETCC. ARC is alarmed that whilst juvenile offenders are placed in ETCC under court orders, children without criminal offenses are also placed at the shelter by the Ministry of Law and Gender. ARC believes that this is incompatible with international best practices and contrary to the best interest of all the children involved. ARC also notes that while ETCC is designed for children between 13 to 18 years of age, children as young as 8 years were placed in ETCC in 2015.

ARC is also particularly concerned that of the eight children currently residing in ETCC, only one child is enrolled at a school or receives any academic or vocational training. ARC believes that it is the duty of the Government to facilitate access to education to all children under State care, including juvenile offenders. The right to education is a basic human right, which is also guaranteed to all children by Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Access to education is also crucial for the successful reintegration of juvenile offenders to the society, as well as for their future economic independence. ARC therefore calls upon the relevant State institutions to urgently facilitate the children’s right to education through the regular school system and/or through tailored courses, including vocational training.

ARC is aware that one of the biggest challenges for ETCC emanates from the interim status of the shelter, and urges the Government to finalize ETCC’s permanent status through the Parliament urgently. ARC also notes that the lack of resources, especially human resources, poses a serious challenge for the efficient management of the shelter. Furthermore, safety issues are rampant in the institution due to the physical structure of the premises and conditions of the building. It is therefore imperative that the necessary construction and renovation work is undertaken promptly, in order to avoid possible dangers to the children and staff. These issues have also been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Law and Gender previously, as well as the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives.

ARC calls upon all concerned authorities to immediately address the serious issues at ETCC, including the prevalence of violence, lack of access to education, the temporary status of the institution and the lack of human resources, to ensure the safety and well being of the children placed in the shelter.