In Malta MUT works with government and social partners to guide education system through crisis

17 April 2020

The COVID 19 outbreak is a public health crisis quite different than anything Europe has faced for many years. As education personnel and their trade unions grapple with the outbreak, we are supporting and informing member organisations in any way we can.

The Maltese Union of Teachers has taken a proactive approach to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the education system and staff. We spoke to the MUT President, Marco Bonnici, to find out more.

ETUCE: In Malta the government and MUT have been in close contact throughout the COVID-19 crisis. How has that impacted the measures taken? How has it benefited your members?

Marco Bonnici: The MUT has been following the COVID-19 situation for weeks and has issued clear directions to members in all sectors to ensure the wellbeing of educators and students. The MUT also made a formal request to the government to initiate discussions leading to the closure of schools to avoid further spread of the virus. We met with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Education immediately after their announcement that schools were going to be closed. Our main proposal was a taskforce consisting of the major stakeholders, but we also wanted to ensure that all educators in all sectors represented by MUT retained their employment, salaries and allowances. The government agreed to these requests.

The taskforce, which includes the MUT and employers from state, church and independent schools, has met regularly and issued three statements on how educators should proceed. The main point, on which the MUT insisted, is that stakeholders demonstrate full faith in the professionalism, dedication and commitment of educators towards their learners. The taskforce also provided educators with many support initiatives along with a centralised online resource platform. This taskforce was instrumental in having a system in place immediately to provide direction to educators, education personnel, management and parents and the MUT is proud of what has been achieved in such a short time.

ETUCE: Schools and universities are closed until the new academic year. What does this mean for teachers and education personnel in terms of their workload and employment conditions? What is the impact on students, especially those from vulnerable groups?

MB: The workload obviously shifted drastically and the MUT is currently tackling all issues pertaining to online teaching in the working group mentioned, particularly those related to working conditions which are unprecedented. These have included pressures to have additional monitoring, additional bureaucracy, meetings even during recess, requests for educators to visit schools and decisions related to exams and other one-off exceptions.

We have also seen issues related to social media, especially since the online contact between educators and parents has increased dramatically. The MUT has issued a set of guidelines and tips for educators on the safe use of the internet, particularly when communicating with students and parents. Particularly, the MUT had to argue against instructions and orders which contradict the spirit of professionalism agreed to in the working group, where we have had members reporting that they have been instructed to use a certain platform or medium over others. The MUT has in fact directed all members, following agreement in the working group, to avoid instructions which limit methods or flexibility and that any such instances should be reported to the MUT.

With regards to students, the MUT has flagged a number of situations including the limited access to technology of some households, the digital divide and students whose home environment is not conductive to learning. The impact is inevitable especially on vulnerable groups and students who require learning support. The MUT notes the effort of the government to reach out and to provide support and technology to these students. A full impact assessment is however still to be determined following the end of this period.

ETUCE: Exams will now be taking place at the beginning of the new academic year. Is MUT happy with this decision? What do the authorities need to keep in mind concerning the impact on schools, universities, education workers and students?

MB: The decisions on exams were announced by the government of Malta in agreement with the MUT, and we are satisfied about the decision in the current very difficult and unique situation and that it shall continue to work to overcome the logistics of the decisions which have been announced whist protecting educators.

Looking ahead, the MUT believes that during the pandemic and following this period, the authorities need to take stock of the whole new situation including new expectations placed on educators. The good practices should be analysed, together with curricular effects on the coming academic years, as this situation will affect at least two years. Authorities also need to avoid decisions based on generalised anecdotal comments, and instead seek to invest in proper scientific studies that will help when deciding on the life and educational future of all students and educators.

Image by Gabriel LE NAOUR from Pixabay.

Get in touch

The ETUCE Secretariat sends solidarity to all teachers, academics and other education personnel and their education trade unions as they react to and tackle this unprecedented crisis. We invite ETUCE member organisations to inform the ETUCE Secretariat about the challenges you face, how you are responding, which good practices you have developed and can share with colleagues, as well as your needs for support from the ETUCE family. Contact ETUCE at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..