Updated 12.35pm

Most State schools have been hit by internet outages that are affecting lessons and preventing teachers from carrying out administrative work.

Teachers have been unable to register student attendances on a dedicated online platform or make use of any kind of aids that need an internet connection.

The problem has been ongoing since pupils returned last week and is the latest issue affecting the education system after complaints over transport, dilapidated classrooms and teacher shortages in key subjects like Mathematics and IT.

An Education Ministry spokeswoman told Times of Malta that service had been restored in all affected areas but by the time of writing, teachers said several schools were still offline.

While the education ministry did not explain the cause of the internet outages, sources said these had to do with the migration from one service provider, GO, to another, Melita.

Unions speak out

The Union of Professional Educators said it had formally written to the Education Ministry to seek assurances on the matter.

Certain subjects require heavy use of audio-visual material or online applications

“If these disruptions persist, it will affect the working conditions of our members as it would translate to an additional load in administrative duties. In such eventuality, we would have to resort to industrial action,” UPE director Rita Catania said.

No internet access would make life hard for teachers to deliver lessons effectively, she noted.

“Certain subjects require heavy use of audio-visual material or online applications, without which the student would struggle to understand,” she pointed out.

On Tuesday morning, the Malta Union of Teachers said that it had spoken to Education Ministry officials and been told that problems were because schools were undergoing a "total technology refresh since schools had a 20 year old setup which does not cater for today’s needs."

All upgrades would be completed by January 2020, the MUT was told. 

The union said it would be meeting with government officials to discuss internet concerns as well as problems with newly-qualified and newly-recruited teachers not yet receiving a laptop. 

New service provider

Last July, Melita announced the awarding of a contract for connecting all State schools with its fibre network. The deal covered more than 100 institutions, and was hailed by the telecommunications company as a landmark agreement in the educational sector.

With such infrastructure in place, the online services needing a powerful connection would be delivered seamlessly, the company had said.

A Melita spokesman said that works on the new network would only be completed by the turn of next year, in line with the announcement made when the agreement had been sealed.

“At the time, it was made clear that the roll-out of the network would be completed in January 2020 and work on this project is, therefore, still ongoing,” he said.  However, the spokesman said that the feedback from the ministry regarding schools which had migrated to the Melita network had been “very positive”.