Watch: No management by crisis in preparation for new school year – Fabri

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Education Ministry’s permanent secretary Frank Fabri rejected suggestions that there had been management by crisis ahead of the reopening of state schools, describing the ongoing preparations as the biggest operation ever carried out in the Maltese educational system.

Fabri was speaking to Andrew Azzopardi on Saturday morning on 103 Malta’s Heart, with the imminent reopening of state schools – which had closed shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic reached Malta – inevitably the subject of the day.

The government’s plans have not been without controversy, with both the Malta Union of Teachers and the Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers arguing that the physical reopening of schools should be delayed.

A delay has been announced – state and church schools will first welcome students on 7 October – but Fabri insisted that this was not imposed by the unions, even as he emphasised the need to achieve consensus on the matter.

“The situation is far more complex and complicated than that,” he maintained. “It is the situation which is dictating the decisions that need to be taken at the opportune times.”

When pressed by Azzopardi, Fabri acknowledged that a perception that there had been management by crisis was there, but insisted that this was because much of what had been done was not readily apparent.

Schools completely reorganised

The preparations, he explained, affected all areas, including syllabi, time tables, the way school days are structured and even the layout of schools. Every school, every classroom had been restructured in line with the new protocols.

Fabri also added that he had ordered a risk assessment to take place in every school, a process which is ongoing. Risk assessors which are licensed by the OHSA and independent of the ministry were going through every room, and each school will need to be certified before it can open its doors.

“When compared to other countries, Malta took a lot of precautions,” he said. “We have even gone overboard in some respects.”

Vulnerable teachers to stay away from classrooms

Asked on teachers who would be considered particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 – for whom a classroom setting would not be ideal – Fabri explained that their needs had been catered for.

Any who are certified to be vulnerable could then provide teaching at home or in a safe location.

They might not necessarily teach a single classroom, however: Fabri noted that lessons on demand were being prepared, which could be freely accessed online for the benefit of students who may have missed them.

Naturally, small children cannot be left alone if a classroom, but Fabri highlighted that more teachers than required had been engaged. Additionally, educators who wish to cover more hours than their collective agreement specified may voluntarily choose to do so, against payment.