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Sectors beyond politics crying out for attention

Politics may be the subject that dominates our media, casual conversation, perhaps even pillow talk. And a lot does depend on the outcome of the political clash and contrast of ideas.

But political discussion is not the end of life’s affairs. Meanwhile, beyond interminable internecine politics, life goes on.

The disabled remain disabled and at serious disadvantage in life. Despite the efforts of the National Commission for Persons with Disability, a con­siderable number of public and private buildings remain inaccessible to those who are challenged in their movement.

Despite the existence of a substantial social security network, many individuals with disabilities still cannot live as independently as they could be allowed to do.

Parents and other carers of many disabled people are still worried sick about what will happen to their loved ones when they are gone or even before that when the years catch up with them.

They still urge and press for adequate houses to be built, perhaps on a parents-public partnership basis, where disabled people who need them can live in the company of others with necessary but unintrusive assistance by the state.

The disabled still hope that enough of them are recognised as individuals able to contribute to society, to add value in the work force too. They are still surprised to learn that there is decades-old legislation that specifies employers above a certain size should offer a percentage of openings to people with disabilities and that this condition is far more honoured in the breach than in observance.

Also, notwithstanding the social security network, there remain thousands of families and individuals who live in absolute poverty. They are not poor in relation to others who are better off – they are poor in relation to themselves. They cannot have even the basic requisites of a threadbare life.

Then there are many, many more thousands of individuals at risk of poverty, whose income is below the prevailing median income. Theirs is called relative poverty – they do not have access to a number of consumables that are considered basic to decent living.

They include several thousand employees on the minimum wage, which – as Caritas has again pointed out – does not go far enough to ensure decent living. Despite the independent and politically untainted efforts of Caritas, no guarantee has been given that the minimum wage will be revised.

So much for the ritual patting on the back Caritas received when it published its report on living conditions a few months ago. The poor, it seems, will not only be with us for always, but also in unacceptable numbers.

Notwithstanding the many good things done in recent years, the fine colleges that have been built and the state-of-the-art facilities within them, the level of our education is still not what it should be. It can never be perfect. But unacceptable gaps remain.

This was pointed out yesterday in a strong analytical article by the shadow spokesman on education, Evarist Bartolo, in MaltaToday.

Mr Bartolo dissected the latest report on the Sec results. A good number of students did well and were understandably lauded by the Education Ministry. But what of those who did not make it? Who did not acquire grades that are meaningful both to further studies and to get a job. Many employers, for instance, do not only look at the number of passes a job applicant has acquired – they look at the grades and frown if they see a six or a seven. A five is just about tolerable.

And what of those who did not sit for Sec examinations because of low self-esteem or lack of motivation? Or others who failed to turn up for their exams?

That is not to belittle the strong efforts made to move the education level upward, in the knowledge that a well-rounded personality as well as economic growth depend on a society with a high standard of educational achievement at all levels.

Successive ministers of education, including the present one, Dolores Cristina, have pursued that objective. But so much more remains to be done.

There are many other sectors beyond politics that cry out for attention. And that attention must be given from within the political field.

Instead of focusing on what needs to be done, our politicians spend endless time on internal or external warfare and self-interest. There is too much futility in this land of milk and honey.

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