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Social media is a growing headache for teachers, union boss says

Union president highlights problems after false rumour spread like wildfire

MUT said incidents on social media often spill over into the real-world classroom. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

MUT said incidents on social media often spill over into the real-world classroom. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Educators are constantly having to deal with issues unrelated to teaching as a result of the ever-growing influence of social media, teachers’ union head Marco Bonnici told the Times of Malta on Friday.

The Malta Union of Teachers president was commenting after it emerged earlier this week that a Muslim classroom assistant was wrongly blamed on social media for the removal of a crucifix in a summer school in Gżira.

The case was first flagged by a parent on social media, where vitriolic comments and demands for an official explanation for the ‘unacceptable’ act soon spread on Facebook with the Foundation for Educational Services having to intervene to clarify the matter.

The MUT immediately reacted, saying in a statement urging the authorities to take action. According to Mr Bonnici, the union had already been in touch with the government, as the employer, and has been told by Education Minister Evarist Bartolo that legal advice was being sought.

Worst example to give to children and continues to undermine profession

Mr Bonnici insisted the union would not tolerate such behaviour going unpunished, saying that hate speech laws applied to everyone and so the authorities should not hesitate to take action.

The post, he went on, had been shared all over social media, meaning it could also be the case that students with access to such platforms could have also come across the post.

“It is the worst example to give to children and continues to undermine our profession,” Mr Bonnici said.

He added that the issue with social media was increasingly becoming a problem and apart from incidents such as this most recent one, teachers were also having to deal with situations that start off online and then spill over into the real-world classroom.

The union, Mr Bonnici went on, would be making sure that action is taken so as to set a clear example that such behaviour, be it from parents, students or anyone else online, is unacceptable.

Questions sent to the Education Ministry on the matter were not answered by the time of writing.

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