The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

MUT calls for postponement of physical reopening of school

Karl Azzopardi Wednesday, 16 September 2020, 13:52 Last update: about 5 days ago

The Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) has called on the government to postpone the date when schools will reopen for physical lessons. 

Kindergarten, primary and secondary schools are set to reopen on 28 September. 

Over the past two weeks, the Education Ministry has released the much awaited COVID-19 guidelines for all educational institutions, including kindergarten, primary and secondary, as well as post-secondary

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On Wednesday, the MUT set up a press conference in which it shared its thoughts and concerns about them and the current COVID-19 situation. 

“The situation is not great as you may have realised, which is why we are taking this stand. However, this is not our final stand as we will continue communicating with the ministry depending on how the situation develops,” MUT President Marco Bonnici. 

Bonnici said that the MUT has always declared that there are two elements that will determine their tand about the reopening of schools; starting with the pandemic and the r-factor; “which you know is something that is getting worse each day and the r-factor will for sure shoot up.” 

“Secondly, the protocols, which were published too late,” Bonnici said. “How can you expect that you let children go into school when you released protocols yesterday and are expecting us to implement them immediately?” 

Bonnici said that teachers are getting stuck in every step of implementation phase. The 1.5m distance between desks is a core issue as there are desks that are being placed facing the wall straight on – “can you imagine a student looking at a wall throughout the whole lesson.” 

He added that the Education Ministry is not giving any answers on what will happen in this regard and on any other questions the MUT have which is causing a sense of panic. 

Furthermore, the call for supervisors came out yesterday which means that the government has no idea how many personnel it will have to survey that guidelines are abided by, Bonnici said. 

On top of this, the curriculum has been given a backseat in this situation as the focus has been on these guidelines. 

In light of all these factors, the MUT Council has decided that the government has to postpone the reopening of educational institutions at all levels and opt for online lessons.

“We do not think that we have enough time to address our concerns especially with the rise in new cases.” 

Secondly, the MUT has called for the government to implement a compliance certification for every institution to ensure that the guidelines are abided by once schools reopen. 

On a concluding note, Bonnici reiterated that this is the position that the MUT is taking in the current situation, but this can always change in the future, but insisted that it is not in anyone’s best interest to reopen schools next week. 

Asked if he thinks that having lessons online will increase the risk of children falling off the radar he said that physical lessons will always remain the best option with online lessons being a back-up which is what is needed at the moment.

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