The Malta Independent 26 February 2024, Monday
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Let’s appreciate educators for the invaluable work they do

Sunday, 3 December 2023, 07:34 Last update: about 4 months ago

Alexander Mangion

The fact that teachers in Malta and Gozo feel the need to strike in order to make their voices heard is a predicament of the dire situation their profession is in, and by extension the education system.

Whenever we discuss a myriad subjects, from discipline in the streets to political maturity, to the responsible use of social media, and anything in between, it takes absolutely no time to zero-in on education as the root-cause/solution of all problems. We are quick to note how education is a life-long process, that does not end with our formal schooling years, but spills well into adult life and beyond.

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However, we can’t seem to get the basics right anymore. Educators in Malta across the board haven’t felt as demotivated and disrespected since the infamous 1984 teachers strikes.

Last Monday, the vast majority of teachers stayed home, sending a clear message that their position is no longer tenable. The catalyst for the strike can be traced back to a series of longstanding grievances that educators have grappled with for years. Chief among these concerns is the issue of inadequate remuneration.

There is no debate that Malta has witnessed a surge in the cost of living in recent years, leaving many struggling to make ends meet on their current salaries. No one, absolutely no one should be struggling to make ends meet in hyper-modernising, turbo-developing Malta of 2023 – but hearing of teachers who are growing anxious at each end-month is categorically unacceptable.

The strike underscores the urgency with which educators seek a fair and sustainable wage that reflects the vital role they play in shaping the future of Malta.

Because teachers, more than ever, have an intrinsically crucial role in our society. With children spending less and less time with their families due to modern day working commitments (but that’s an argument for another day), educators are burdened with even more responsibility. Our children are spending more time at schools, breakfast clubs, after-school activities, homework clubs and so on. But this increased responsibility on the system doesn’t seem to be adequately balanced out.

Educators, the backbone of any education system, are grappling with increasing workloads, administrative burdens, and a lack of resources. The strike serves as a collective outcry against a system that demands more from its educators without providing the necessary support to facilitate effective teaching.

While we are eager to learn about the ongoing negotiations, honestly hoping that government is approaching them in good fate, and with no thinly veiled threats, a sustainable solution requires a comprehensive examination of the education system. This includes addressing not only salary but also systemic issues which have been dragged out for far too long.

We all agree that improved conditions for teachers directly translate to a better learning environment for students.  Motivated educators will bring so much more to their classrooms, and everyone will gain. We all have our own memories of a teacher or other, and how they made us feel during our formative years. We recall how their love for the subject inspired us to take a particular career path, or how their lack of enthusiasm perhaps had the complete opposite effect.  This is what it all boils down to.

Our educators are effectively nurturing our Maltese men and women of the future. Our future workers, businesspersons, professionals, ministers and prime ministers – and future teachers too. If we doubt the importance of such a venture, then perhaps we ought to reexamine what we’re out to achieve.

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