The Malta Independent 12 July 2024, Friday
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MUT survey shows teachers living in fear of false abuse allegations, fear affecting their work

Saturday, 29 November 2014, 12:06 Last update: about 11 years ago

More than two thirds of teachers who took part in an MUT survey said they feel that their work is being affected b reports of alleged cases of abuse by educators and the debate that follows.

A quarter said this was keeping them from participating in or organising extracurricular activities with students and 84% of educators believe that the identity of people charged with child abuse should not be exposed until the court finds them guilty.
The results of the survey, which was carried out over the past two months, were presented by MUT Senior Vice President Mario Bonnici at a national conference this morning. Mr Bonnici said there were 450 respondents and the survey findings will be presented to the Education Ministry.

Mr Bonnici said four main cases occurred before the survey was carried out: an LSA who was charged with abusing a child in Gozo, a man cleared of abusing a girl after seven years, the ongoing case of a Gozitan priest accused of abusing three girls and the case of a MUSEUM catechist charged with defiling a 10-year-old while swimming.

The MUT official said nearly all respondents said they were avoiding being alone with one pupil after these cases emerged. More than half said they had avoided online communication. Two in five suggested CCTV cameras in school to reduce the risk of allegations.

The survey also showed that 70% of respondents feel that they are not being well protected against allegations of abuse and their employer is not taking enough measures to reduce risks.

MUT president Kevin Bonello said teachers were feeling uncertain because of different procedures adopted by the police and court recently, including the publication of names.

He said this was the result of a lack of foresight and a lack of knowledge about the consequences of new legislation introduced in 2004 with the accession to the EU.

The MUT had issued a directive ordering teachers not to be on their own with children after a case of alleged abuse involving another catechist three years ago but nothing was done on a legislative level and the case repeated itself this year.

The MUT President also called for an increase in the budget allocation for education to allow for research on the changing challenges of the sector.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo spoke on the need for a national campaign to reduce the teachers' fear. He said their fears were affecting education and the survey results will not be ignored.

He noted that two thirds of teachers who took part in the survey said they did not feel protected and said their fears were justified, seeing that there were cases of teenage students who assaulted them in the classroom.

Mr Bartolo said students cannot be given the impression that they can misbehave in school. He also noted, however, that some teachers, both males and females, go to work indecently dressed.

Mr Bartolo also called for media laws to be updated, barring the publication of the names of people charged with abuse until after they are found guilty. This will help ease the minds of educators who are afraid that children might falsely accuse them of sexual abuse, he said. The Education Minister also called for consistency in police investigations on sexual abuse and for a faster judicial process. 

Shadow Minister Joe Cassar said teachers cannot enjoy their profession when working under fear. Some even stop teaching and look for a different job for fear of being targeted by false accusations.





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