The lack of air conditioning in government schools is a sign of “major disrespect” towards educators and a disservice to students, according to Malta Union of Teachers president Marco Bonnici.

“The MUT has repeatedly made appeals to the [Education] Ministry that, since school buildings are being used throughout the year, there has to be investment in proper heating, cooling and ventilation in all parts of the school building,” Mr Bonnici said. 

“We are all aware that all government buildings which provide services to the public are fully equipped with these systems, but schools are not. This is a major disrespect towards educators who work in such heat/cold and a disservice to students,” Mr Bonnici added. 

Earlier this week, Times of Malta reported how thousands of parents, relatives and teachers were signing a petition calling on the government to install air-conditioners in classrooms, as children return home from summer school exhausted from the heat and dripping in sweat.

The petition, which was set up by a mother several months ago, has been gaining traction over the past few days as temperatures soar to heatwave levels – it now reached over 5,500 signatures. 

People described the situation in classrooms as “a horror”, likening the conditions to “a sauna”.  

Among the hundreds of comments posted, a teacher who works at the government-run summer programme SkolaSajf wrote: “By 10am, most of the children are all covered in sweat to the extent that it starts dripping off their face.”

MUT frustrated by situation

When contacted, Mr Bonnici said that teachers had been voicing their frustration at the situation for years. 

He said most schools lacked thermal insulation – either because they were old buildings or, as in the case of newer construction, because the investment was in the design over the practicality. 

Only recently, the design of new schools had included the provision of air conditioning systems, he said. However, even in such cases there was a lack of uniformity.

“Some schools that had new extensions have AC systems installed in the extensions but not in the old part of the buildings, even if they were refurbished. 

“The lack of uniformity is even leading some parents to choose one school over another,” he said elaborating that some parents were putting pressure for their children to be placed in the newer schools because of the overall environment, that included air conditioning systems. 

“To add another element to this situation, only a handful of schools have drinking fountains or the provision of a supply of fresh water. 

“This proves that priorities are not set and, whilst there were investments to provide better learning experiences to students including the so-called state of the art workshops, the investment in basic provisions is severely lacking,” he said.

Questions sent to the government on Monday remained unanswered by the time of writing.