Education Minister Owen Bonnici has rebutted criticism by the Malta Union of Teachers, arguing that he is not going to rush through the Covid-19 protocols for schools.
On Tuesday, Bonnici announced that COVID-19 guidelines for schools are being finalised, and will be published on Friday. He also said that meetings between the ministry and the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) on the COVID-19 protocols have been positive. Despite this claim, the MUT issued a statement in which it bluntly said that the union was not informed that protocols would be published on Friday during the meeting that was held. The MUT said that the Education Ministry wants to hurry the process up and release the protocols. It argued that they should not be issued without the input of educators.
Bonnici explained that he was asked whether the Health Authorities protocols were finalised or not. “Essentially (on Tuesday) I was asked whether the Health Authority protocols have been finalised, and I said that we are at a very advanced stage, where we will have a final meeting between the Education and Health Authorities, and that we will then have the advice and position of the health authorities.”
Commenting on the MUT statement, in which he was criticised for hurrying up the process, Bonnici said that he was not doing so, but will continue discussing with MUT and dialogue with them. He said that he wishes to give parents the peace of mind that schools and education will continue moving forward with all the necessary protocols issued by the Health Authorities being put in place.
Bonnici said that the COVID-19 protocols for schools are being drawn up by the health authorities themselves, who are in discussions with the Education Ministry. “On Friday, we will have a month left until schools reopen. Therefore, I want to give parents the peace of mind that their children’s education will continue moving forward with all the protocols in place which are recommended by the health authorities,” explained Bonnici.
When asked when the MUT will be informed about the protocols and guidelines, he reiterated that the protocols are the advice given by the health authorities. “The health authorities give us, the Education Ministry, their advice, which we then share with our stakeholders. I will continue discussing with stakeholders as much as possible; but I will also communicate with parents.”
When asked whether he is set on opening schools on 28September, despite the increase in COVID-19 numbers, he said that children should not spend another year or year and a half way from school. “This is a question of what we want for our children, and we want the best education for them, which is in the classroom. We believe in this, and also other stakeholders around the world, such as the World Health Organisation, also emphasise that children should go back to school.”