Children with disabilities are being sent home from school when their LSE is sick, following union directives instructing learning support educators not to fill in for their absent colleagues.
Parents of children who have one-to-one LSEs are angered at the fact that their children are being “deprived of the right to education” due to directives issued by the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) and the Union of Professional Educators (UPE).
Meanwhile, the two unions are blaming the situation on the government’s failure to employ enough LSEs and LSE relievers.
Questions sent to the Education Ministry remained unanswered by the time of writing.
“I can’t accept that my son is missing out on his education. This is happening to many parents who are having to take time off work and unpaid leave.
Education for children with disabilities has regressed
“We already have a lot of extra expenses due to our children’s disabilities,” said the motherof a seven-year-old primary school student who preferred not to be named.
The woman said that last week she was told she had to take her son back home when she dropped him off at school.
This was not the first time it had happened.
Rebecca Bonello has also been asked to take her eight-year-old son, Matteo, home when his one-to-one LSE was sick – something she refused to do.
“Education for children with disabilities has regressed. We got children with disabilities into mainstream schools but stopped there,” she said.
The commissioner for the rights of persons with disability, Oliver Scicluna, has received several reports of children being sent home when their LSEs were absent.
“Not only does this create problems for their families but it also goes against the children’s basic right to education,” he said.
“That this should have been actually issued as a union directive only goes to show how the unions attempt to curry favour with their members at the expense of children with a disability,” he added.
At the start of the scholastic year, the MUT issued directives instructing LSEs to stick to their agreement. Shared LSEs were told not to move class when asked to replace LSEs with one-to-one students. The UPE issued similar directives last week.
MUT president Marco Bonnici said the union had no option “because many schools are in an impossible situation whereby, when an LSE is sick, there is a whole musical chairs of replacements.
“It just disrupts other educators and other students who end up without their LSE because this LSE was assigned to replace a sick LSE.
“We had information of students who ended up without their LSE for a whole week. The current situation is trading the well-being of a child with someone else’s well-being and the union’s directives are only intended to bring to a minimum the disruption caused.”
He said that the MUT is the recognised Union for all educator grades and can issue directives for all LSEs.
Graham Sansone, from the UPE, said the directives were issued after the Education Ministry dragged its feet on recruiting enough LSEs to fulfil the vacant posts available.
“The lack of human resources is affecting the classroom environment,” he said, adding that if financial incentives and work conditions improved “we wouldn’t be in the current situation”.
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