Our country is in shambles. Being Maltese is presently not something to boast about beyond our COVID-infested shores. We are Maltese; the ones who ‘blow journalists up’, who ‘sell passports’, who ‘had most of the Police traffic department arrested’, and now, those who harbour COVID-19.
The rapid deterioration of the virus’s containment is indeed a point of shame. But then again, we have become grossly accustomed to that; it is now integral to our identity. What is more pertinent than the urge to hide my passport when I’m next due to travel is the grave disregard with which we treat our lifeline, our students.
Many thousands of students have been left in the dark for too long with regards to sitting for tremendously important exams, which they have been gearing towards for years on end. The Ministry for Education refuses to be explicitly clear, precise, about what it considers to be safe circumstances to sit for exams in person. It seems that, at the moment, things are going to go ahead as normal, which, to put it mildly, is madness.
What about students who reside with immunocompromised individuals? What about those who are immunocompromised themselves? The responsible authorities have been astoundingly able to show no sign of compassion or understanding for teenagers in a very uneasy situation to start with, let alone when you add a pandemic to the mix of chlorobenzene and Freud and Loops of Henle.
What does this say about the people who are meant to be running our educational system?
First of all, it is clear that they are lacking in empathy and understanding for youngsters, who should be supported so as to flourish. Repeated vague, rigid and identical answers spew of disinterest, and negligence.
The second is in fact negligence; those responsible were short-sighted, irresponsible or lazy enough to fail to prepare for a circumstance where the risk of sitting for exams under the standard setting is riskier than it was three months ago. Too many times has our country suffered due to this care-free attitude.
The third point is that these people are playing with fire when it comes to the economy too. It is drilled into our head from primary school days that Malta has no natural resources; human capital is all we are blessed with. That’s why education is free, and students get stipend; we need brains. If those presently responsible manage to ruin the prospects of a student presently meant to be sitting for their O- or A-levels, our country is going to be in trouble in 20 years’ time.
Much worse would come if schools were to be kept functioning online without it being assured that education is of the highest level possible. It is not only now that parent will struggle; it is also in 30 years’ time when the Maltese labour market is lesser educated, lower skilled, and thus, less able to support the hefty pension bill.
It is already disrespectful that our students are treated in this manner. It is simply negligence of duty to fail to prepare for the real possibility of a second wave. But, worst of all, it is treason to put Malta and its people, particularly its students, at the risk of contracting a dangerous virus, whilst toying with the possibility of long-term economic and social collapse.
Yes indeed, it is the betrayal of a country to risk Malta’s present, its future, and Maltese lives, in the name of a few millions and making a point.
As it is now abundantly clear to current students, and as will be laid plain in the coming decades, Malta and its people deserve better.
Written by: Xandru Cassar