A teachers’ union this week said teachers should be covered by insurance in view of the increasingly hostile environment that they work in.
The request comes as no surprise, especially in view of recently published statistics that show just how serious the problem of aggression in schools has become.
A few weeks ago, the Malta Union of Teachers released the results of a survey it had carried out among educators, in which 87% of respondents said they had faced some form of aggression. 23% of respondents said they had experienced aggression on a daily basis. While the majority of cases involved students, 39% of educators said they had also faced problems with parents.
Replying to a Parliamentary Question a few weeks ago, Education Minister said that a total of 23 reports of aggression against teachers, in connection with nine separate cases, had been filed since the beginning of 2019.
The minister said that, when a case is filed, these educators receive assistance and their case is surveyed on a weekly basis by the Directorate for Educational Services. But the fact remains that teachers do not feel safe at their place of work – both unions representing them are saying this.
The MUT has long been calling for the introduction of security measures at schools, which include security officers.
Now, the other teachers’ union, the Union of Professional Educators (UPE), has gone a step further and insisted that it is time to think about insurance cover for teachers.
The UPE made a number of other proposals, including keeping tabs on all individuals entering school buildings, in view of the fact that unsupervised individuals were managing to enter some schools and attacking teachers on their place of work.
Union head Graham Sansone said both the Prime Minister and Education Minister seemed receptive to the idea and that the union will now be presenting the proposals directly to Joseph Muscat.
There is also a situation, Sansone said, where teachers hurt at the workplace end up using all of their sick leave, with the result that they end up on half-pay or no pay at all. Educators hurt on the job should also be compensated, he said.
The UPE head also argued that mental health issues seem to be rising amongst their students, and this is causing the children to express themselves violently. Earlier this year, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Nigel Camilleri had told The Malta Independent that one in 10 children suffer from mental health disorders, with most cases going undiagnosed.
Aggression shown by students may not necessarily be the result of a mental health issue, it might also be the result of a stressful family environment, but all cases need to be monitored and the necessary support given.
Over the past few weeks, the government and the Opposition were engaged in a tit-for-tat over the infamous ‘container’ classrooms used at the St Paul’s Bay primary, when in reality the discussion should be focusing on the issue of security at schools.
Speaking to The Malta Independent earlier this year, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said that even one report of aggression at school is a report too many, adding that funds were being allocated to start addressing security measures in schools, and to start having a security personnel who will filter the entrance of the schools.
But that was January, and the unions representing teachers are still complaining about the issue of aggression and security at school.
On this matter, the government must act without further delay.
Original article found on The Malta Independent