So much debate and discussion around education focuses on innovation and technology, but decades of research also reveals simple interventions that can change a child’s life.
An essay published by the World Economic Forum says that, and I quote, “we have to be willing to invest in our children for a long-term benefit. If every investment we made into a child’s education were to accrue interest similar to a monetary bond, we would find the payouts reaching far beyond any available interest rate. Instead of a one-time pay out, however, these investments would be felt within our economy every year”. The more time that we spend on nurturing, educating and developing your child’s young mind, the more likely they are going to be a successful citizen of the world. My mission as Minister for Education is to put all my and my team’s efforts and commitments, to make this happen.
Starting from the simple things, as the best things in life are free, as the old adage says. I have been advocating the pleasures and the importance of reading since I took up office, as I adamantly believe that all children, and adults for that matter, should embrace books as their life’s best friend.
Reading is not only a source of knowledge, a tool to improve a language, any given subject and vocabulary, but also refines your thought and grasp on life. This leads me to the very satisfying event I had this week, when I participated in the programme ‘Naqraw Ftit’, which airs daily on the national station TVM (repetition on TVM2) and is organised by the National Literacy Agency. A programme that aims to promote reading among children of all ages, especially during this period of schools’ closure.
I gladly accepted the invitation to participate to promote reading and during the programme read stories aimed at children of different ages. I have to praise the National Literacy Agency’s work and PBS Ltd for their cooperation to promote reading and literacy in our country. I reiterate that reading is a crucial tool in children’s education and is the foundation for other educational successes to be built upon. I again urge children and the public in general to foster a culture of reading.
Investing in our children’s future is also investing in their second home – their school environment. Children have to have the best environment in their formative years, and this is also one of the priorities we are working on. A visit to the ongoing construction works of the new primary school in Qawra this week clearly illustrates what we are doing in this sector.
The works, which are being made with an investment of €13 million, are running on schedule and the project is expected to be completed before the end of the current year.
The Qawra area saw a yearly increase in the number of students attending primary school. This necessitated the building of a new primary school which will be crucial to keep providing the best standards of education possible. I am very proud of this project and I thank the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools for the excellent work. Despite all COVID-19 related difficulties, the employees at FTS kept the work going for the benefit of the completion of those essential projects. He thanked the workers of the contractors of FTS for their commitment and stressed that FTS is taking all necessary measures to safeguard the health of its employees and those of the contractors. This is being done not only in order to respect the obtaining laws in our country concerning occupational health and safety, but also in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the primary school opens its doors, it will cater for 500 students and will complement the existing school in St Paul’s Bay which will still continue to operate. The new complex will also comprise a kindergarten and childcare services. The school will be made up of 39 different classes, a multi-purpose hall and various sporting facilities, both outdoor and indoor. The school will have a total area of 9,500 cubic metres and both the hall and the sporting facilities will have separate entrances so that these can still be enjoyed by from the community after school hours. The complex will be fully accessible and underneath the school, one will find 2 levels of parking with a total area of more than 15,000 cubic metres that can accommodate around 400 cars. This Government is seriously investing in new schools and also comprehensively regenerating other existing schools throughout Malta and Gozo. To date we have built a number of new schools: the National Sports School in Pembroke, the new secondary school in Kirkop, the secondary school in Dingli, the primary school in Żebbug and the primary school in Marsaskala. We have also comprehensively regenerated the secondary schools in Naxxar, Rabat (Malta), Birkirkara (Ta’ Paris), Cospicua and Rabat (Gozo) and the primary schools of Pembroke, San Gwann, Xagħra, Ta' Sannat and Xewkija.
Our commitment many forms. We are also committed to help.
After the provision of lunches to those students who are on Scheme 9 and are therefore considered to be in need of material assistance, 250 students on scheme 9 will be receiving the provision of free internet access with an investment of €40,000. Those 250 students, which have been identifying as lacking internet access at home, will be provided with a small gadget which, once switched on, will provide access to the web. Internet access is crucial during the current time, where most educational services are being offered online.
We will also be providing a free computer, laptop or tablet for the duration of this period in which schools are closed to students falling under Scheme 9 who do not have this device. Work is being undertaken so that computers from the Department of Education and other educational institutions are loaned to these students.
I also donated one month of my ministerial salary to the Office of the Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Education and Employment, to be used to buy computers to be then loaned to children under Scheme 9 who do not have a computer at home. I urge those who are in a position to do so to join in and also appeal private companies to consider donating or loaning computers for free for the benefit of students in need.
We are committed as a government to help the people who are in need of special assistance, particularly now that most education has been transferred online.