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Maltese Assistant Head Warns Non-Obligatory School Attendance Being Abused

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It’s only been a few days since Malta reopened schools, but a primary school assistant head has warned she’s already seeing signs of abuse over the fact physical attendance is non-compulsory this scholastic year.

Roberta Argento, assistant head of the San Ġorġ Preca College primary school in Paola, raised her concern directly to Prime Minister Robert Abela during a political rally this afternoon.

“One of the challenges we’re facing is that of non-obligatory attendance, which can lead to abuse. I’m not referring to vulnerable children but children who are [missing school] out of fear or even carelessness.”

“How will the government address this challenge we’re living through to guarantee the continuous psychological, social and emotional development of our children? How will it monitor this situation, particularly with regards children who are living in difficult social situations, something we unfortunately face on a daily basis?”

Overall though, Argento said she’s pleased at the way schools reopened, thanking the staff for going out of their way to make everyone feel safe and noting that several children are voluntarily wearing masks and visors inside the classroom, even though this measure isn’t obligatory for students younger than eleven.

Abela’s response was to urge parents not to diminish the importance of providing their children with a quality education.

“It’s up to parents whether to send their children or not, and they won’t get fined if they don’t send them. This can lead to abuse but ultimately the real fine will be dealt to those children who miss school without a valid reason.”

“Children must be sent to school and it’s crucial that those parents who are still genuinely scared provide their children with all the online learning available. However, nothing can replace physical education inside the classroom.”

The Prime Minister reiterated his warning that the social and academic development of an entire generation is hanging in the balance, stating these children could be lost if the government takes wrong decisions with regards schools.

“To those parents who are still scared despite the health protocols we’ve introduced, I ask you to have courage. I’m a parent too and my wife and I decided to send our daughter to school because we wholly trust the new protocols and because we believe it would have been wrong to stop her receiving an education.”

“Every day of education lost is lost forever. All the schooldays lost since March are lost forever and we can now only speak of education from October onwards. As a parent, I don’t want my daughter to lose these months of education.”

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