As I write this, Xlendi sits in air filled with the dusty remnants of the last iconic boathouse that once graced its shores. As is required of us, we must, once again, simply accept the fact that something beloved and full of character, something beautifully Maltese, has been taken away from us.

Once again, someone has decided that it was okay to continue chiselling down our island, only to make way for cheap blocks that encourage packing people into boxes like disillusioned sardines.

In other news, a beautiful painting of Lassana Cisse now lives upon the walls of a Gozitan church, a constant reminder to us of just how much his life mattered and how that life was stolen from him. And some people absolutely refuse to find anything but hateful words to throw at the existence of this mural.

Reporting of it is littered with vitriol, racist micro-aggressions and anger. Of all the things they could be angry at right now, they choose this. How did it come to this? 

One can put forward a hundred reasons as to why these things are happening in Malta. ‘Greed’, ‘arrogance’ and ‘ignorance’ have been the words I have seen most used in the media. Were the Maltese people always like this? Is there a cure for greed, arrogance and ignorance?

Our country is a haven for the unethical; even our politicians get away with murder, as the expression goes.

Our education system teaches us to read, write and do algebra but it falls short in teaching us what is right and wrong. It fails to teach us something so seemingly simple as empathy.

This system has been discussed and debated ad eternum but here we are, still stuck with the same archaic structure we’ve had for decades. Going to school not to get an education but to get our O levels, A levels or, perhaps, a degree or two at the university.

One might ask: what is the link between the state of education in Malta, the painting of Lassana and a rubble-filled Xlendi Bay.

To me, the link is unequivocally clear: if we were all taught to think critically as children, if we were taught to consider the effects that our words and actions have on not just us but other people, and the world at large, would we still come across so many of these instances? Would we still see so much inconsideration from our leaders? 

Education is not the ability to pass an exam, it is the opening of a mind- Emma Portelli Bonnici

Education is not the ability to pass an exam, it is the opening of a mind, not just learning the nine times table offhand and being able to pull a quote from Oliver Friggieri’s Ir-Rań°el tal-Klieb out of a hat for a couple of extra marks in our exams.

The incontrovertible irony here is that Maltese schoolchildren have among the longest school hours in Europe. Teaching hours in Finland – reputed to have the best educational system in Europe – are less than four a day.

A look at what subjects Finnish children are taught is truly an eye-opener. Social studies, business and labour-market subjects, physical and health education and art and culture are compulsory subjects for the ages we refer to as secondary school years. 

Finnish children are taught ethics, they are taught the workings of the labour market and the importance of quality of life.

All this leads to adults who consider their natural footprints, their effects on the world and on people around them as they move through it and to look after their own physical well-being, including a work-life balance that seems to be glaringly absent in the latest budget document put forward by Labour’s most champagne socialist cabinet in history.

They are taught how to appreciate art and culture, to appreciate that everyone around them is equal.

A society that prioritises this, one that teaches empathy and equality, would not breed adults who mock the existence of a painting that memorialises a victim of a horrific crime.

Nor would they build eyesores in the middle of their beloved bays because they were taught to nurture beauty and culture, not to cut it down, leaving only a trail of suffocating dust in its wake. 

We ask whether there is a cure for greed, for arrogance, for ignorance. Well, there is and it is focusing on real comprehensive education.

We’re always told to prioritise quality over quantity but, somehow, this mantra stops applying to the Maltese educational system.

What legacy shall we choose?

Emma Portelli Bonnici, PN candidate

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