The education authorities have asked schools to compile a list of allergies and chronic illnesses affecting their students after they were caught without the data when asked in parliament.
Education Minister Clifton Grima was replying to a parliamentary question by Nationalist MP Ivan Castillo about the fact there is no information related to the number of students in each school who suffer from a chronic condition such as diabetes and allergies, including some life-threatening ones like nut allergies or allergic reactions to sesame seeds.
Grima said this data about individual students is not kept out of respect for the students’ data protection.
Despite this explanation, it is a known fact that parents and legal guardians are asked to fill in a medical form about students at the beginning of every scholastic year.
The morning after Grima's intervention in parliament, an email was sent out to all schools by the Education Department asking the heads to go through the students’ medical forms and input the information on the schools’ central information system.
Sources said the information could prove to be lifesaving as the schools would require a plan in place to determine the course of action should the need arise. Some allergies require students to be administered medication such as the Epipen within minutes, without which it could be fatal.
Epipen is the leading brand of epinephrine autoinjectors used to treat anaphylaxis.
The product, which administers epinephrine intramuscularly, is simple enough to be used by parents, teachers or friends at the first sign of anaphylaxis.
Epipens deliver a shot of epinephrine in a potentially fatal situation.
Sources told Times of Malta that individual teachers were in possession of this information about children in their class.
The information comes from the data collected at the beginning of the scholastic year, however the practice happens more in primary schools than in secondary.
Malta Union of Teachers president Marco Bonnici said teachers should have this kind of information about children in their class. How this information is collected centrally by the school and whether it is collated centrally per college or nationally is another issue altogether, he said.
“The MUT can see how one could argue that having a list of ailments can be beneficial to draft of policies and for planning purposes, without breaching any data protection laws,” he added.
However, the MUT president expressed concern that the issue and children’s ailments might end up being “trivialised” with the publication of “top 10 charts in the media which is what these kinds of lists end up being used for.”
Bonnici said the union was open to discuss the issue with the Education Ministry should it request it.
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