Psychiatrists urge authorities to keep schools open

Miguela Xuereb

A future generation should not be robbed of an education, the Maltese Association of Psychiatry said as it urged the education authorities to keep schools opened.

In a statement on Friday, the psychiatrists said that returning to school or college is vital for children and young people’s education as well as for their wellbeing.

They warned that time out of an education is detrimental to the cognitive and academic development of children and young people particularly for those who come from a disadvantaged background.

The closure of schools can have an effect on current levels of learning as well as their future ability to learn, the association said, noting that it needs to be ensured that all pupils can return to their setting sooner rather than later.

The number of children and adolescents being referred to mental health services during the pandemic has increased, the association remarked.

In March when the first cases of coronavirus were being registered in Malta, schools were closed down until the end of the scholastic year with education being moved online. This scholastic year saw students returning in a staggered manner after the official reopening date of schools was postponed.

The association noted how despite having only been a couple of weeks since children returned to school, it has been receiving positive feedback from parents and children alike. Children do not attend school just to learn academic information but also for social interaction, the return to school has seen an improvement in moods and self esteem in our children.

The risk to children and young people themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school or college, the association said.

“We know that education settings are a vital point of contact for public health and safeguarding services that are critical to the wellbeing of children, young people and families.”

A child or young person’s time spent in education is key to their preparation for adulthood, the psychiatrists maintained, adding that this affects the standard of living that today’s pupils and students will have over the course of their entire life. For many households, the closure of education settings has also affected their parents ability to work.

On Friday, Malta registered 122 new coronavirus cases as the number of new infections continues to surge.

As coronavirus cases continued to surge, the government introduced new restrictions on Friday evening, among which is the compulsory wearing of face masks, which will come into effect on Saturday. Masks are to be used in outdoor places and at workplaces. They can be removed when alone in the vehicle but have to be worn when there are other passengers. Children under 3 years of age are exempted from compulsory mask wearing.

The restrictive measure will be enforced from 24 October when law enforcement authorities will dish out to fines to those found contravening the measure aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

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