The First Few Years
Education Through Privilege
Maldives and Me
Welcome to this blog. I believe in being transparent and honest. I don’t think a blog could be complete without a biography so one can understand both an author’s influences and intension. For those of you who would like to learn a little about me; here you go.
My life has been one of both privilege and turbulence. The turbulence is only really present in my contact with developments at home (in the Republic of the Maldives). But also possibly in constantly traveling, constantly making new friends and adapting to new experiences. While they have made my life additionally hectic, it was also a privilege that has affected me profoundly. Additionally, I’ve always enjoyed privileges from the accomplishments of my parents and their unceasing efforts to provide me with the best opportunities they could.
The First Few Years
My mother’s and father’s family are both from Male’ (the capital of the Maldives) though I grew up in mother’s home. Jawahiru Vadhee on Orchid Magu. It was an interesting house to grow up in – like so many Maldivian homes back then; it was communal with the extended family living under one roof. Even with traveling abroad, it has instilled in me the desire to remain within arm’s reach of family. But we also had our share of trouble. My two earliest memories where one was of a police raid on my house where every male above the age of 18 was taken away. The other was watching my father put on his socks to a police summons at one in the morning. Let’s leave all this for later, shall we?
Once we were forced to leave, my family moved to Tanzania. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful nations on this Earth. It is a nation rich in culture, heritage, and natural untarnished beauty – from Ngorongoro Crater (the largest on Earth) to Mount Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti .I do not think there could have been a more exciting place for a child to develop his first few years of full memory.
Unfortunately, because the move was so sudden and our family quite broke, my parents both ended up having to work long hours to ensure my sisters and I were well provided for. Up until the 4th grade, I spent little time with my parents. We were all adapting to a new culture, a new life – and gradually we made the shift to speaking English. Being so young, I retained only a little Dhivehi. Once my mother-tongue, I’m now forced to relearn its grammar, its verbs, its inflections, and all the intricacies which make Dhivehi a beautiful language. This was just one more sacrifice my family’s endured in a long list, and an incredibly minor one at that.
The opportunities I’ve had for learning is by far the one aspect of my life which has been most privileged. After completing most of 1st grade in Iskandar (Maldives), our move to Tanzania had me attending the International School of Tanganika. In Bangladesh it was the American International School of Dhaka. In New York (USA), it was Briarcliff Manor Middle and High School. In Nepal it was Lincoln School. And in Oxford (UK), it was St. Clare’s International College. Every one of these schools are amazing schools that gave me the foundation in liberal thought that I enjoy today. Without this foundation, my application to Stanford University – and the other Universities to which I applied – would not have been successful.
“Every opportunity I’ve experienced can be extended to our people, through education reform, greater emphasis on scholarships, and more open-mindedness when it comes to applying to institutions of further study. Over the course of my life, I’m determined to see that those who want these opportunities will be provided for.”
I am privileged because my parents have always sacrificed for the sake of my education. The last High School I attended in the UK was the very first British School to start teaching the International Baccalaureate (also taught by the United World College which many of my Maldivian friends have attended). But it was also the most expensive school I attended. The possibility to attend this boarding school was broached as my father accepted a position in Afghanistan. With the War there in full swing, it was a hardship duty station and family was not allowed by UNICEF. My mother though, would not be completely separated from her husband. She decided to brave Afghanistan, in spite of UN regulations, not having life insurance, and the turbulent atmosphere in Kabul. Without any functioning schools in the country my parents were willing to dip into their savings in order to send me to boarding school, which I am forever grateful. Though I would have loved to chill in Kabul and visit Afghanistan – that trip will have to wait until that country regains stability and overcomes the grips of both fundamentalism and a thriving heroin economy. God willing, they will.
Stanford University combined with extensive experience I’ve had at home has given me and understanding of political structures and democratic development which has shaped my views on how I believe Maldives needs to develop. I constantly worry about its deliberalization. I worry that the Maldives I knew as a child will disappear.
Every opportunity I’ve experienced can be extended to our people, through education reform, greater emphasis on scholarships, and more open-mindedness when it comes to applying to institutions of further study. Over the course of my life, I’m determined to see that those who want these opportunities will be provided for.
(Opportunity implies a willingness for a hand up. Not a hand out. Loans instead of grants. Hard work instead of guaranteed placement. This is how we move forward. Through effort and not patronage.)
My name is Jeffrey Salim Waheed. Most people call me Jeff. Many of my Muslim and Maldivian friends call me Salim. My official name in Maldives is Salim Waheed. My parents named their children based on where they were conceived. Their eldest is named Widhadh – to mean love. Their middle child is named Fidha – meaning to sacrifice for another. They came across both of these names while in Lebanon. I’m the youngest of my parents children. My original first name is Jeffrey which means peace. This was chosen because it was an American name. So that I would have a Muslim name as well, my parents gave me the name Salim as well meaning peace as well. The corny and mushy side of me would like to think that we are indeed my parent’s love, sacrifice, and peace. And I’m sure they’ll claim as much.
Maldives and Me
Though I’ve spent only a small portion of my life in Maldives, I’ve done research in both Hanimaadhoo (Haa Dhal) and Addu. During the 2008 Presidential campaign I was blessed with the opportunity travel to many more Islands and meet more of my countrymen. And I have come to understand how our heritage is being lost. Slowly degraded. I also saw first-hand how lacking we are in development, infrastructure, and most of all -opportunity. I’ve grown abroad most of my life because we were unwelcome at home, visiting just once a year. But with that annual visit, we see both the economic progression and social digression of the Maldives. I remember what Maldives used to be like, and I miss that. I feel an ever present sadness at the thought that we may lose our heritage and culture and that our society is changing into something that is not in the greatest benefit for this country.