In this pandemic age, where COVID-19 dominates most discussions and is a prime concern for most, the subject of schools is a sensitive topic. Several queries and concerns were raised, by parents and teachers alike as the situation of school re-entry brought with it significant anxiety.
A few days after students returned to schools, we have heard of a number of new cases from classes, which would obviously raise numerous concerns. In combination with this is the fact that cases have been spiking over the past weeks, with Malta registering back to back records, the latest being over two hundred cases. This risks overwhelming the health system and thus not providing adequate care to those who may need it the most. In this regard, many are now looking at further restrictions in a bid to minimise the spread. As the Prime Minister announced that masks are now mandatory immediately as you leave your front door, together with the fact that bars are to be closed by 23:00, should schools follow suit and adopt a remote first approach?
This indeed seems to be the opinion of the UPE (Union of Professional Educators), which is Malta’s minority teachers’ union. This also comes following the fact that a number of educators from different schools tested positive for COVID-19. The latest reports seem to indicate that the newest case came from the St Gorg Preca College in Hamrun. The union has communicated with the media and emphasised its stance that online schooling is the best system, considering the circumstances.
This union has been advocating in favour of online schooling way before schools actually re-opened. This same union cited a survey held between its own members, highlighting that the overwhelming majority of almost ninety percent preferred online schooling. The same union insisted that it fails to understand why there is such an insistence to open schools.
The Education Minister, Owen Bonnici had in the past raised concerns about the effectiveness of online learning when analysed over the long-term. He highlighted that he too is a parent and would be sending his twelve-year-old daughter to school since it is important for her education. The Minister expressed wary at the potential situation where children lose months of their education till a vaccine is distributed to everyone.
What do you make of all this? Should schools remain open? Let us know your views in the comments section below.