Schools only reopened a few hours ago but a teachers’ union has already criticised the setup in state institutions as one characterised by “chaos” and “panic”.
“[We] have been receiving reports from its members that the first day of school has been characterised by panic due to the state of unpreparedness in which state schools are found,” the Union of Professional Educators, Malta’s minority teachers’ union, said in a statement.
“Reports have comprised complaints of alleged dirty classrooms and chaotic setups. Staff rooms are crammed with desks going completely against the social distancing protocols. In one particular case, a room, that is supposed to host a maximum of six adults with social distancing in mind, has been reported to be hosting 30 educators.”
“Teachers have been given new time tables again, thus rendering all the planning they have done to date redundant. Furthermore, several reports were received from LSEs claiming that while seating arrangements were made to cater for students and the teachers, no such arrangement was contemplated for LSEs.”
“Internet connections have also been reported as being extremely unstable and educators have not been in a position to connect to platforms to continue with their work. All of this was reported within just the first few hours of school.”
The UPE encouraged its members to report any unsafe conditions to them and to support these reports with photographic evidence, so it could flag these issues with the Education Ministry.
Teachers and students will have to adjust to a completely new environment, with students restricted to contact with those placed in their same ‘bubble’.
Students older than 11, as well as all staff, must wear masks throughout the day, while students younger than 11 will be allowed to keep their masks off in the classroom but will have to wear them elsewhere.
Parents can opt to keep their children at home, in which case they will follow the same curriculum online through a series of pre-recorded lessons.
Despite the effort taken by schools to adjust to the ‘new normal’, a high degree of uncertainty looms over the upcoming scholastic year, particularly over the chaos that could erupt if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.
Frank Fabri, the Education Ministry’s permanent secretary, warned today that disciplinary action will be taken against anyone caught breaching the COVID-19 protocols.
“We must all protect our school communities and we’re taking it very seriously,” he said. “In order to keep schools open, we need to follow every single measure.”