Some Primary School are still being denied their education

29th October 2021

The Office of the Commissioner for Children would like to express its disappointment that in the ongoing industrial dispute between the Ministry for Education and the teachers’ unions over how to make good for a shortage of teachers created by Covid-19 public health safety measures in schools, the principle of the best interests of children has been anything but a primary consideration. This goes against Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Consequently, due to this lack of consideration of the best interests of children by the unions, a number of primary school classes are still without a teacher as a result of the industrial dispute. In the face of an emergency situation, one would have expected all parties to abandon the politics and tactics of confrontation and adopt a more collaborative approach in order to agree on temporary measures that would allow the education system to weather the Covid-19 storm for the benefit of all children. Sadly, the pandemic seems to have exacerbated the confrontation, as recently evidenced by the industrial dispute by the teachers’ unions and the subsequent court application by the Education Ministry for a prohibitory injunction against the measures ordered by the unions.

The Office cannot but express dismay at the recent court ruling which championed the right of the teachers’ unions to protest a decision by the Education Ministry over the right of children to an education.  It beggars belief that the judge presiding over the case is quoted as having said that “there was no rights for the court to protect”, when the right of children to an education is guaranteed by Article 3 of Education Act, 2019, which has just come into force.

This clearly shows that Malta’s legal framework for children’s rights needs to be strengthened in order to give legal force to the Convention and make children’s rights legally binding.

In the meantime, a number of primary schoolchildren have been without a class teacher since the beginning of this scholastic year, their right to an education trodden upon by adults who have agreed to talk only after engaging in a legal battle that has damaged the very children whose best interests they are meant to serve.  The Office appeals to all stakeholders to walk the talk on children’s rights and agree on a way forward that upholds these rights.