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The Pandemic Of Endless Days

The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers was astounded by what was said in the video published on Facebook on the page Edukazzjoni on the 24th of September 2020. This video, which is but one of the many videos being published, and all of which seem to delight in providing misinformation based of half-truths and idyllic situations, presents the current educational situation as being one in which way too much has been lost: and it is here that the union took a double take.

In the video, a doleful, Dr. Frank Fabri, laments how it is now time to make up for the 6 months of education our children have lost. This caused way more than a little stir amongst the teaching community, which not only commented rather vehemently on shared posts, but also contacted the union, after having felt yet again attacked by that ministry which should be safeguarding and supporting them, especially after all the extra work which the ministry’s dilly dallying made them go through during what should have been their period of rest.

The Ministry seems to have forgotten how, back in March educators had rolled up their sleeves and ensured that work was made available online. Many teachers did not need the ministry to prompt them to set the ball rolling, and those who could handle the online world not only took online teaching in their stride, but also assisted other colleagues who were not as tech savvy. Within less than two weeks these formidable educators nationwide had transformed a big chunk of face-to-face traditional educational material, into widely accessible digital material available online on a number of approved (and non-approved) platforms. Education continued being provided while these educators concurrently taught their syllabi and voluntarily sought to be taught more about the digital tools, and the resources, they had readily available. 

The memory of the Ministry seems to need a good jog to remember how the Minister himself had congratulated these teachers on their resilience and ability to adapt to a new reality. He had even congratulated teachers for their generosity at providing thousands of files in resources on the government’s official platform, and which were made accessible to everyone. He had also bragged about how the ministry had provided so much to those children who were at a disadvantage by providing internet connections and devices so as to facilitate access to the sterling work these teachers were doing, for back then he saw how hard they had been working and for a brief moment in time, educators felt appreciated.

The ministry seems to forget how, despite having been caught unawares by a pandemic, which had them leave school one fine day in March not knowing what would happen next, these educators made best use of scarce resources, without training, so as to continue doing that which they know how to do best: teach.

Yet in just one sentence, Dr. Frank Fabri nullified all that effort, making all of the painstaking work done by teachers under extreme stress sound like redundant thumb twiddling. Six months of education, according to the script he read out in sorrowful tones, have been lost, never to be returned.

At this point, the union cannot help but feel the urge to correct Dr. Fabri, and whoever wrote this fallacious script. Allow real educators to do the maths for the ministry here.

Between March the 13th and June the 30th there are 110 days. From July 1st to September 28th were Summer holidays and will not be considered within the teaching/learning parameters because no teaching /learning occurs during that time. Of the above-mentioned 110 days, 32 days were weekends, 12 days were holidays, and 13 days would have been exams, for a total of expected non-teaching/learning time of 57 days. That means that the expected number of days in which teaching was meant to happen boils down to a grand total of 53 days. One must concur that on no earthly calendar does 53 days translate into 6 months.

What the children got in terms of actual online teaching days, made available by educators, was a more or less abrupt stop of 5 school days in March where educators, pretty much like everyone else on the island, were stunted by shock. After which, most schools started providing online resources. Thus, the full non-active days would have gone down to 48, however being the professionals they are, educators continued teaching online through what would have been 13 non-contact days, as there were no exams, bringing the number of active days to 61 days. Just in case, the narrative eludes the ministry here, 61 working days is greater than 53 working days by 8 working days.

61 days where educators were doing their utmost to provide our children with the education they deserve, defying odds and criticism from people who had no idea what they were going through as they literally occupied their days teaching and training, despite the stress and strain of suddenly realising that a life-threatening pandemic was in their midst.

Of course, educators continued their work through the first week of school ensuring that the new method of assessment which led to the promotion of their students to the next year was completed by the 6th of July. 

In the meantime, during their rest period, educators have spent a great deal of time planning work for the upcoming year, envisioning multiple scenarios and adapting their work to all of them. None of these scenarios had been confirmed until less than 3 weeks ago, and with this information came drastic changes to the syllabi which brought educators back to the drawing board, after having had to scrap most of what they had done.

The ministry never once hinted at how our educators have not exactly been sipping cocktails by the pool, for days on end, in idle leisure. Not once, has the ministry taken the time to address the educators it employs to thank them for serving the future workforce to the best of their abilities. It has taken a great deal of time and care, however,  to take credit for the work they have done, to dismiss them before the public as little more than low-level thinkers, and to depict them as low-life, leeching, lazy people who have been sitting around waiting for the Minister’s luminary advice to teach them how to do the job they have been doing all along in his absence.

The union thus demands that the ministry ceases to cast a dark shadow upon our educators and the work they have been doing by, for once, telling the public how things stand in reality rather than attempting to divert the public’s attention from the ministry’s lack of proactivity by engaging in child-like finger-pointing and pathetic crocodile tears.

The union also expects the ministry to ensure that instead of blaming educators, yet again, for the delay in the reopening of schools, it takes upon itself the blame for issuing protocols so late, that schools were not given sufficient time to prepare to teach under life-threatening conditions, armed only with the invitation to take one on the chin and “Be brave”.