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Children’s Commissioner Warns Of Exploitation If Compulsory School Attendance Is Wavered

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School attendance should remain compulsory to protect children in vulnerable situations, Commissioner for Children Pauline Miceli urged.

She explained that keeping attendance mandatory will ensure children who were regularly absent from school prior to the pandemic due to negligent situations “won’t fall through the net”.

The commissioner believes, however, that children classified as vulnerable to the virus or living in a vulnerable household should be considered on a case-to-case basis.

This came after the publication of the COVID-19 guidelines for schools last week by Education Ministry Permanent Secretary Frank Fabri last week.

“We will be amending the policy on the attendance of pupils at school so that absenteeism can be monitored by our educators and professionals, while parents and families are not penalised over a circumstance that they do not have control over,” he said.

The commissioner’s reaction included statements mentioning children in abusive situations that see school as a ‘safe haven’ and that their legal guardians might exploit the amended policy to keep the child at home against their will.

“In the cases where children are unable to physically attend school and will follow online schooling, checks and balances should be in place to ensure that children’s rights and needs are being fulfilled. The Office urges the Ministry for Education to put in place the necessary measures to ensure children’s wellbeing,” said Miceli.

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