An association representing parents of state school students has warned that the reopening of schools would be “premature” with the current high number of COVID-19 cases, and should be postponed.

The Maltese Association of Parents of State School Students (MAPSSS) also called on the authorities to take the necessary actions to control the spread of the virus as there was “clear evidence that the spread of COVID is not slowing down”. 

“It is evident that the measures taken so far have not been effective enough,” it said in a statement.

Both unions representing teachers on Wednesday urged the government to keep schools closed because of the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.

The calls by the Malta Union of Teachers and the Union of Professional Educators came shortly after health authorities confirmed a record 106 new cases in 24 hours.

The parents of students attending state schools joined the call: “In view of a record number of COVID-19 cases, MAPSSS questions if it would be premature to open schools on September 30. MAPSSS questions whether the protocols issued on September 2 are considered sufficiently effective to safeguard the wellbeing of students and staff in schools and whether the preparation of the implementation of these protocols would be finalised by the end of the month,” it said.

It added that a system that requires working parents to stay at home to assist their children in home-schooling needs to be discussed with the employer associations to ensure that parents are given the opportunity to telework and that no disciplinary action is taken against the parents in circumstances where teleworking is not possible.

The association also called on the education authorities to launch an outreach programme for students that 'disappeared off the radar’ during the school closure last March.

“It should be ensured that disadvantaged and marginalised children, including children in low-income families and migrant children in open centres, have access to the necessary hardware and software, as well as internet access, to benefit from proper schooling.” 

Moreover, children of frontline personnel and educators should be provided with adequate daycare and appropriate organisation to allow them to follow their curricula during their parents’ or their legal guardians working hours.

The association also said that in view of the negative impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health, as suggested in several academic research papers, a mental healthcare support unit should be organised specifically to support the students, including through home visits by trained personnel for checks, assessment and eventually intervention.

It also called for the postponement of the introduction of new uniforms to avoid having parents queuing up to purchase the new uniforms. Moreover, there are parents who are experiencing financial pressures related to the pandemic. 

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