The government is seeking the public's opinion about €193 million in EU funds that will be invested over seven years into social initiatives, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parliamentary Secretary for EU funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi launched a public consultation on the allocation of funds through the European Social Fund Plus programme on Monday.
The financial framework, which runs from 2021 till 2027 will see Malta allocated €193 million to be invested into social initiatives to improve and adapt services to new and emerging needs.
Zrinzo Azzopardi said the government was looking to strengthen five key priorities, namely enhancing employability and labour market resilience, fostering active inclusion for all, quality and inclusive education and enhanced lifelong learning, addressing material deprivation and technical assistance.
“EU resources will be mobilised to target the needs of vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalised groups, particularly children, people at risk of poverty, exclusion and material deprivation, people with a disability, as well as youths and foreign nationals, in order to foster inclusion and integration,” he said.
He said the funds will also be used to promote new employment opportunities and reducing the gender pay gap.
Extending the one tablet per child scheme
Among others, funds will be used to extend the ‘One tablet per child’ scheme to secondary school students, with more details on the program expected to be launched soon.
Launched in 2016, the program saw some 15,000 tablets distributed to Year 4 students in state, Church and independent schools, at the cost of €12 million. Eighty per cent of the costs were funded through the European Social Fund.
However, a study by the National Audit Office carried out in 2019 found that the tablets were underutilised in the classroom, with fewer than one in five children saying they made use of the tablets daily at school.
The COVID-19 pandemic however increased the tablets' popularity exponentially in 2020, as many classrooms switched to online teaching.
The public consultation document can be viewed online on Malta’s EU Funds website.
People can send in feedback on the document until August 30 on firstname.lastname@example.org