The Union of Professional Educators has taken aim at the Commissioner for Children after she expressed her dismay at the union objecting to the redeployment of student teachers in schools with staff shortages.
In a statement this week, the Commissioner accused the union of “resisting any attempt at finding a reasonable and workable solution” to the teacher shortage problem currently plaguing Malta’s education system.
“In an emergency situation like the one faced by children and the education sector for almost the past two years, unions in particular need to be responsible, by collaborating with, rather than confronting one another, in order to find the best solutions to guarantee children their education rights,” the commissioner said.
Responding to the statement, the UPE suggested that the commissioner had ‘lost her bearings’.
“While we support her mission to protect children, we believe she should take a deep and serious look at the blunders the Ministry has been making over the past year,” the union said.
“She has taken aim at the unions for issuing legitimate directives without being fully informed or aware of the complexities of the current situation.”
The union pointed to a list of issues, mainly related to the redeployment of teachers in different schools, as justification for its directives.
“The commissioner should start tackling these issues with the ministry rather than attacking the unions,” the UPE said.
“It is the failure of the ministry to properly address the crisis in education that has harmed and continues to harm our children. Not the teaching unions, but an often confused and contradictory education policy.”
The UPE questioned whether the commissioner felt it was acceptable for PSCD lessons to be “given on stairs or in a kitchen”.
Ultimately, the union insisted, the present teacher shortage was a result of the ministry’s failure to attract enough students to the teaching profession.
Malta has suffered from a lack of teachers for some time now but matters have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced authorities to decrease the number of students in each class in order to abide by social distancing measures.
This has brought about an even higher need for teachers, which the country has struggled to cater to.
The union said that the commissioner was not credible in her criticism and called on her office to undertake an”extensive review” to identify where the “real blame lies for the failure to provide the services young persons are entitled to”.
The union said it remained committed to “safeguarding its members’ interests”.
“No matter what the critics have to say, the union is duty-bound to make sure that further injustices do not happen to its members of the teaching profession,” the union said.
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