“All the children said that they are missing human contact. They maintained some form of connection, but they all agreed that it was not the same. Children need to feel loved. They need to feel that the school cares about them.” These were the warning and perhaps worrying words of Education specialist Prof Carmel Borg when over 100 people from various fields recently attended ‘The National Education Forum Under the Shadow of COVID-19 ‘which was held online
These included representatives of NGOs, experts, academics and various other personalities who shared their views and joined the discussion. A number of children and parents also attended the forum and talked about their experiences thus far.
Newsbook.com.mt spoke to the Associate Professor in the Department of Education Studies at the Faculty of Education of the University of Malta Prof. Carmel Borg, who is also a former Head of Department and ex-Dean of the Faculty of Education.
“I can’t help but remark upon the ‘calm’ that was present during the forum,” he said. “It was a wonderful context where everyone expressed themselves in a spirit of true dialogue
Prof. Borg said that he was pleased to hear many of the speakers – from the children to the academics – attach importance to relationships.
He remarked on the children’s need for human contact, to ‘feel the love’. “As regards online learning, we must remember that technology is there to serve us. It is a means to an end. Learning remains a human act,” said Prof Borg.
When they eventually return to school, educators are going to face a complex situation that has been accentuated by the pandemic, Prof. Borg said.
“Schools will need to address the emotional element, as well as the academic one, before they can return to any kind of ‘normality’. A plan by each school to help primarily on the emotional level for both children and educators and other significant adults is essential. Some form of assessment will need to be done at school level, not just nationally standardised tests,” he stressed.
National Education Forum Under the Shadow of COVID-19
The objective of the discussion was to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the compulsory education system in Malta. Following the discussion, proposals were formulated on what the next steps should be to mitigate the risks of compromising children’s educational experience.
Apart from Prof. Borg (Chair of the discussion), the experts included Dr Charmaine Bonello; Dr Glorianne Borg Axisa, Dr Elena Tanti Burlo; Mario Mallia, Prof Carmel Cefai and Dr Maria Cutajar.
During her address, Chair of The Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca spoke strongly about children from foreign families who may be feeling that they have a lack of support, saying that educators also have a moral and ethical obligation towards these children.
The problems being faced by parents of children with learning disabilities were also touched upon, with one of the children saying that she was worried about her friend, who has autism.