Response to the Reopening Of Schools Guidelines

Response to the Reopening Of Schools Guidelines

04 Sept 2020, 17:29:46 UTC
Volt Malta's response to the Guidelines on Reopening Schools given by the Minister of Health and Education.
classroom, text : Response to the Reopening Of Schools Guidelines

Response to the Reopening Of Schools Guidelines

Dear Health Minister, and Minister of Education,

The belated guidelines for the education sector, particularly for the re-opening of primary and secondary schools, leave a lot to be desired. It’s not all bad, but it’s not a sustainable solution, and unfortunately sounds like the main participants who ensure the schools’ running were not adequately consulted.

Primarily, it ignores pre-school, post-secondary and tertiary education institutions. What will happen to them? How will they be able to move forward and ensure the safety of the hundreds of teachers and thousands of students that attend them? It is not right that they are left to their own devices. We must ensure that the new rules implemented are tailored accordingly and enforced across all learning institutions.

Secondly, when teachers have to self-isolate, even if they aren’t sick but were contact-traced, what support will they receive? Since teachers don’t have leave. What will they have to do when they are not given any other option? Teachers give their all and work very hard for their students, and will continue to do so during this time. However, they should be given the respect and care that they deserve.

Thirdly, classrooms are to be smaller, but it’s already common knowledge that there’s a shortage of teachers. Due to this, we should be working more on solving the problems at hand, rather than creating new ones. What is being done to address the shortfall in teachers to address this, which would be exacerbated in the event of self-isolating and ill teachers?

Fourth, online classes seem to be here to stay, especially if a child or a class is isolating/quarantined. What can be done to improve the quality of education, and ensure commitment? Additionally, are teachers expected to give both in-class lessons and online lessons at the same time through live-streaming, or are they expected to give the same lesson twice, once in-person and once online? They need to know what to expect and the materials they need to utilize to provide their students with sustainable learning.

Fifth, when a child/teacher is isolating/quarantined, are the members of their household also required to isolate/quarantine themselves? If so, what support measures are in place to support household members who can’t telework? How can we ensure that the spread will be effectively monitored and contained? 

Here are some of our suggestions;

1) Create guidelines for pre-school, post-secondary and tertiary institutions in close collaboration with their teachers, and student representatives. Time is running out, and guidelines are urgently needed.

2) Temporarily create ‘COVID-19 related leave’ for teachers who can’t go to school, who are isolating/quarantined and have fallen ill. There is no guarantee teachers have the means to teach from home in this event, and it would go a long way to reassuring our educators and benefiting their mental health as they won’t lose their livelihood income for those days.

3) Addressing the shortage of teachers requires long-needed reform to incentivise more people to become educators. There is no quick fix for a shortage of teachers, however, it is worth seeking ways to at least temporarily request help from teachers in other sectors, such as those involved in TEFL. Of course, training is required, but if the situation is dire we need to consider options. Most importantly reform must take place.

4) Teachers should be able to expect students who are at home to have their cameras and microphones turned on, to ensure they are attentive to the lessons. If students lack such devices, then there should be a way to borrow one for the scholastic year, similar to how students have the tablets. Furthermore, a form of live-streaming should be considered.

5) Guidelines should be clarified, and if other members of the household must self-isolate/quarantine, then there should be measures to ensure that people who can’t telework don’t lose their livelihood. This should also include businesses that depend on them and are given support to make up for lost activity so employees don’t risk losing their jobs.

We have many more questions and suggestions, such as concerning the role of Language Support Teachers, which should’ve been answered much earlier in the summer. 

It was clear that the pandemic would not be over by the time school resumes, and it’s been almost 6 months since schools first closed. However, we need to start somewhere, even though we are already late.

-Volt Malta Team