Teachers are keeping extra food in their desk drawers in case some student turns up in class with an empty lunchbox as cases of child neglect become a common occurrence in most schools.

This situation was brought to the attention of the Times of Malta by worried individuals who preferred to remain anonymous.

They expressed concern that educators were increasingly coming across students who were both malnourished and lacking personal hygiene, at times not even wearing clean uniforms.

There were also cases of children being sent to school without any lunch, forcing teachers to find ways to feed the pupils themselves, sources said.

Some students were spotted sharing their food with classmates who had none.

A spokesman for the Malta Union of Teachers said members had approached them expressing similar concerns.

“Unfortunately, educators are being faced with difficult situations as some parents are not only uninterested in their children’s education but they do not even care about basic necessities, such as personal hygiene and nutrition.

“Cases of neglect are common in most schools and many teachers can identify some of students with such issues,” the spokesman added.

Some even resort to keeping food, such as fruit and crackers, in their desk drawer

According to him, teachers were now resorting to buying food out of their own pockets to give them to children who would otherwise probably go hungry.

“Some even resort to keeping food, such as fruit and crackers, in their desk drawer so that children without any lunch can at least have something to eat,” he noted.

At times, teachers note that some students were evidently not getting enough sleep and turned up to school half-asleep, the spokesman continued.

Asked whether the authorities would be notified when teachers suspected cases of abuse – since neglect is a form of abuse – he said the union was informed that social welfare services were inundated with cases and often ended up having to prioritise when faced with other forms of abuse, say of a sexual and physical type.

“The Malta Union of Teachers has been adamant for many years that the education system alone is not enough to educate children. In this sense, there has to be more investment and strategies to ad-dress the role of families and society at large in educating children.

“Research shows that up to 70 per cent of a child’s formation comes from informal and non-formal learning that children are exposed to at home and within their communities,” he remarked.

“If this fact is not being properly appreciated, the education system will never be able to address a variety of issues, including, for example, early school leaving.”

Times of Malta reported that a study on the state of the education systems in Europe concluded that students in Malta were still not obtaining basic cognitive skills, a result of youths leaving school too early.

Earlier this week, the government welcomed a report by Eurostat indicating that the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion had dropped by four per cent in three years.

According to the figures, the number of people at risk of poverty dropped by 14,000, down to 85,000, between 2013 and 2016.

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