The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers has been following all the recent events which revolve around the current COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout, the UPE has been in contact with professionals in the field and has been gathering information about the risk factors that might compromise the health of its members, and has been taking well-informed decisions about what the way forward should be.

The union was thus quite irked by the disparaging comments which FELTOM felt so free to make, dismissing the union’s interventions aimed at safeguarding not only its members, or even just teachers, but society at large.

“Pathetic sensationalism” is what the FELTOM spokesperson dismissed the activity of the UPE as being. Since FELTOM felt so free to, so righteously, express its opinion, the UPE feels that it too can just as freely express how it perceives the reaction from FELTOM.

The UPE feels that the guidelines, given the current state of affairs, are far from sufficient. While the numbers were on the decline, the UPE did not make any objection to them and would have continued doing so had the situation remained the same. This was not so, thus the overly passive attitude of FELTOM vis-à-vis a situation in which the virus insinuated itself within schools, with numbers of cases confirmed on the rise, can only be described as naïve, or even worse way too business-oriented and deleterious to the health of the teachers and students alike.

It is to be noted that the guidelines issued by the ELT Council, mirror those of SkolaSajf, which were ultimately intended for a much younger population. One can understand that anyone under the age of 10 might find it very hard to put up with the compulsory use of face masks; this, however, can hardly be considered an impediment for older teens and adults, even more so, when these teens and adults have attended mass gatherings, or were in direct contact with people who have.

We will grant that the majority of students involved are now in isolation or quarantine, but there can be no certainty that a fool-proof 100% has been achieved. How can the industry be more important than the manpower who keeps it going? How can anyone, for that matter, even perceive a directive to wear a mask as a threat, when all it is intending to do is safeguard those who are literally putting themselves out there for the industry? How can the industry thrive at all if teachers are ordered to quarantine? Where is it that FELTOM begins to see the people before the business and acknowledge the tension these teachers are under?

The union has utter and complete admiration towards EFL teachers who have not buckled under financial hardship, turning up for work in return for pittance, as things stand. They are the ones really safeguarding the industry, not FELTOM and its Prima Donna hissy fit proclaiming that wearing a mask should not be considered a prerogative for educators. The union recommended the use of masks by students too; double the protection to safeguard the masses from something we currently have no solution for.

And what to say about FELTOM going off in a strop because the union asked schools not to encourage the students to attend mass gatherings. Granted, the schools make money out of promoting these gatherings, and taking students to have a good time. Much good has come out of this, right? Just a few days later students who attended, teachers and students who have come in contact with them, families of teachers who have come in contact with these students, are being forced into mandatory quarantine until they are swabbed and the results are out. 

A couple of days, one might say, and there one would be totally and utterly wrong! Teachers who have booked their tests over the weekend and who were told to quarantine were told to remain on quarantine until the 7th of August regardless of whether the test came out negative, and in some cases they were also told that they would have to return for a second test. FELTOM must really think it is an amazing experience to pay the guys at the hub a visit, and have their orifices poked by a person dressed up like a spaceman and who treats you like a bio-hazard!

The union was informed that since the government has allowed these mass gatherings to take place, FELTOM cannot be told it has done anything wrong. That is pretty convenient! Pity that they seem to be equally oblivious to the fact that Public Health Authorities have been reiterating that social distancing is to be maintained at all times, the MAM has been asking for mass gatherings to be stopped, and the Maltese people have been issuing an endless amount of surveys requesting these mass gatherings to be brought to an end. Red flags all over the place! But FELTOM insists on wearing its blinkers, for fear of seeing the reality of the world out there!

Wake up FELTOM!