The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers would like to voice its utter disappointment at, yet again, having been proven correct to believe that the agreement made on the 08th January 2021, was nothing more than yet another ad hoc agreement which was not formalised through documented signatures sealing the agreement in any way.
Our repeated requests for the formal document with all signatures, which any agreement would require, was responded to on the 20th January 2021 by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Dr. Frank Fabri, with a copy of the press release issued on the 8th of January, which is nothing more than a collection of points delineating a statement of intent, with no indication of any strategic plan in place for their implementation, and which contains no evidence of commitment through signatures. The UPE has its reservations on a variety of points, and had requested a detailed document purely to verify whether its reservations were grounded in any way.
The first item which stood out to notice was the intention to strengthen protocols and contact tracing procedures. To date, two weeks after the agreement was made, there has been no evidence of any work having been done to this end: delays in contact tracing persist, and the implementation of protocols has remained unvaried. During a pandemic, one can hardly expect to have such delays become the norm, especially when hundreds of educators nationwide had voiced their objection. The union would like to recommend having a contact tracing section which is exclusively for schools, especially given that with the higher infection rate of the new strain, delays in contact tracing, in places which are so densely populated, are bound to inflate the number of infections and strain our health system even further. The union would also recommend that with the possibility of contracting the new strain of the virus, with its 70% higher infection rate, even the delineated 2-hour-contact time-frame is reviewed to ensure that it reflects the possible outcome of new infections.
The press release also states that medical certification procedures will improve, but elaborates no further than that. Again, to date, no evidence of any attempt to render the procedure more efficient, or effective, is in place. One would expect that any strategic plan would have been discussed and put down in writing, and would have been signed in agreement: unfortunately it seems that such strategic planning was not done, and no solid argument backs this hypothetical manoeuvre.
The press release stated that educators would be prioritised for vaccination, after health care workers and the elderly. This news would have been welcomed more wholeheartedly had it really been news, given that Health Minister Hon. Fearne had already placed educators within that tier back on December 7th, and confirmed the status quo yesterday, the 21st of January, when the minister was interviewed during his visit to the work-site of the new health centre in Paola. One would find it hard to believe that Hon. Fearne was not informed of the decision taken at Castille level to prioritise educators, and that thus erroneously reiterated a statement which, for all intents and purposes, should be out-dated.
The promise of regular updates of the COVID-19 situation in schools, as stated in the press release, has also not borne any fruit to date. So far, had the UPE not proactively informed the public of the cases it was made aware of, the general public might have been expected to be duped into believing that schools are COVID-free zones, because our health authorities made no statement on the issue. To add insult to injury, the UPE was attacked for promoting awareness and possibly encouraging people to get tested had they not been duly informed, as should be.
In conclusion, the UPE feels that this press release is not to be considered an agreement, but an insult to people’s intelligence, and is not in the least bit pleased with the way this whole situation is being managed. The Government and the MUT have yet again failed educators, by giving them the illusion of there having been a brief moment in time in which their interests, their well-being, and their standing in society was prioritised, respected and taken into account.