Updated 7.30pm, adds FSWS reply

Two children have been moved out of their family home after their school's rector made a public appeal for help, saying they were being badly treated at home. 

In his appeal to the prime minister, St Albert the Great College rector Fr Aaron Zahra said he wanted the two children to be provided with alternative accommodation before Christmas.

Shortly afterwards, the Foundation for Social Welfare Services said the two children had been found an alternative home, through the help of NGOs. 

The FSWS said Zahra had known about the placement before he issued his public statement.  

Zahra said several reports were filed with Appoġġ by himself and the social worker and service manager of the schools’ secretariat. On December 7, he also filed an official police report with the Domestic Violence Section at the police headquarters.

Zahra said the children had been badly treated at home for at least four months. They went to school hungry, smelling of urine, wearing dirty clothes and were afraid to return home at the end of the day.

He said it appeared that the children were being locked in an empty room without toys and beds. They arrived at school hungry and the way they behaved as soon as they were given food was disturbing.

The situation was also traumatic to those who were working closely with the children.

Zahra said it had been heartbreaking for him when a seven-year-old girl told him “father, I am afraid to go home because of my mummy..."

He said that although the authorities were providing a very professional process to transfer the children away from home, he and his colleagues were very worried they would be spending Christmas locked in a room alone without basic needs.

Through the intervention of the authorities concerned, these children should be given the best Christmas gift by being placed in a safe and suitable place, he said.

Fr Zahra's college has been mired in controversy ever since the Dominican Order, which runs the college, fired headmaster Mario Mallia in July. That sparked a clash with the MUT that has spilt into the current scholastic year. 

Placements found

In a reply issued shortly after the appeal, the Foundation for Social Welfare Services said placements for the two children had already been found.

It said the placements were with non-governmental organisations that worked in the sector and with whom it had agreements for such placements.

The transition was being made in the coming days and the rector had been informed of this before he issued his statement, the foundation said.

It said it was wise to allow professional work and investigations to be carried out when such reports are filed.

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