"Very few" primary school classes have no fixed teachers and the situation is being addressed, Education Minister Justyne Caruana insisted on Monday.
“We are taking a number of measures to address this issue, and there are very few classes which are not settled and have no fixed teachers,” Caruana told Times of Malta.
The minister was speaking after parents of children at a number of state primary schools went public with their frustration about a union dispute resulting in a teacher shortage.
Using a Facebook group, Parents of Kids in Malta State Schools with No Teacher, parents raised the alarm that at least 18 classrooms in primary state schools had no fixed class teachers. The children are being taught by rotating peripatetic educators or support teachers.
On Monday, Caruana said that the number of classrooms without fixed teachers is "less" than 18 and declining every day.
The minister did not say how many classes are still affected.
Due to COVID-19 measures including distancing and pupil bubbles, fewer children can occupy each classroom, intensifying teacher shortage issues.
The current scholastic year started off with a shortage of teachers in some 80 state primary schools.
Education authorities called for peripatetic and support teachers to fill in the gaps.
But the Malta Union of Teachers objected to those instructions and issued directives ordering the transferred peripatetic and support teachers to return to their original roles.
When asked when the dispute between the unions and ministry will end, Caruana said that would happen in "a matter of days."
“Discussions are ongoing and the situation is improving every day,” she said.
She said in the past few days she has signed 189 new teacher warrants, and the ministry has issued an open call for teachers, including that for retired teachers.
"Our appeal is to always to have an open dialogue and to find the best solution, always with the interest of the child. Workers have their rights of course, but we are speaking about children and in the context of a pandemic which is temporary.”
She said that peripatetic educators and support teachers will go back to their original roles once the need for additional classes is no longer needed.