The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers lamented a lack of consultation by the Education Ministry on the potential reopening of schools next month, and has questioned all three possible scenarios floated by the ministry.
In a statement, the UPE said that an initial meeting had been held after the closure of schools, giving the general impression that the ministry was trying to find a solution for the following academic year. But since this meeting, the union maintained, the ministry remained silent and failed to engage in any further discussions, even when specific details were sought.
One of the potential scenarios mentioned by Minister Owen Bonnici is the opening of schools as usual, with all children attending schools.
But the union said that this was only possible if the number of active cases of Covid-19 went down significantly, and the spread in the community was contained. However, numbers were actually much lower when schools had been closed last March.
Consequently, the UPE was using March numbers as a benchmark, and pledged to “take all necessary measures to safeguard its members” if the government pursued this path.
Another option was to open schools with alternating groups of children, but the UPE dismissed this option as a highly unrealistic one which would cause chaos amongst parents. It could only be viable if educators were asked to work longer hours and splitting the school day into two segments, and as such, the UPE would oppose it as it went against the collective agreement.
The final option would be for all teaching to be done online, effectively the same situation that was in place after the closure of schools. However, the ministry is now seeking to ensure that teachers do live sessions online, a measure that the union opposes as live sessions opened the risk of malicious use of online footage.
The UPE noted that online work “is exponentially increasing the educator’s workload,” placing them in a position where they do not feel they have the right to disconnect.