Outings for students are commonplace especially during summer school but having the head of government take you out on a trip to his office does not happen every day.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and his wife Kate picked up 70 schoolchildren aged 6 to 11 at the primary school of their hometown, Marsascala, and took them and some journalists on an open top bus ride to the Auberge de Castille in Valletta to show them round his office.
Before the double-decker bus left, Dr Gonzi and Mrs Gonzi went round classes, meeting teachers and children, before going out in the playground, where a game of prisoners dodgeball was taking place.
Dr Gonzi sent one girl to “prison” when he hit the target but then overstepped his remit and gave all the prisoners a “presidential pardon” as he called them to join him on the top floor of the bus to Auberge de Castille.
Faced with trees, bridges and signs overhead, children began cheering and trying to reach what was overhead, with Dr Gonzi joining in as the schoolchildren raised their hands as they passed under a bridge.
Once outside the Auberge de Castille, Dr Gonzi pointed at the works being done on the facade, evidently pleased at the way the scaffolding had been covered to mimic the section being restored.
Some children were also very attentive to their guidebook, trying to make sure they saw the real life counterpart of what they had in their book.
Kylie Facciol, eight, was one of these, and she was comparing items in the room to the pictures on the book with her friend.
“We still haven’t seen this watch,” she said, looking round to see whether the gold timepiece she was looking at in the book was in the room. “I only found it on the book,” the aspiring doctor said.
The children fired away questions to the Prime Minister, asking whether it was true that President George Abela was really his classmate, which Dr Gonzi confirmed, specifying that Dr Abela, Minister Austin Gatt and himself were in the same year at the law course. While in the Cabinet room, the PM asked if any of the children would like to be in his place.
Only a few hands were raised, some exuberantly, others less enthusiastically, while a girl quipped she’d want to be the wife of the Prime Minister instead.
“These ugly faces here are Malta’s prime ministers,” Dr Gonzi said, pointing at the portraits adorning the room. “I told them there isn’t enough space for mine, as I’m sure I’ll be uglier than them.”
Once inside his office, when asked what his favourite destination was, Dr Gonzi mentioned a trip to the far-flung Papua New Guinea.
“We even met Maltese people there, who gave me a plastic bag to deliver to their grandfather in Żabbar.”
After a group picture on the stairs, Dr Gonzi sent them off for some refreshments.
Nicole Schembri, 11, was quite happy at her meeting with Malta’s number one.
“I didn’t know he was so nice; I had never met him.”
Asked what she wanted to be when she grew up she replied: “I’m not so sure now.” Does she actually want to be prime minister? “Yeah,” she replied. “It’s either a nurse or Prime Minister.”
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