Fines of up to €5,000 for injuring educators
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Fines of up to €5,000 for injuring educators

Education ministry pledges harsher penalties

Teachers’ union president Marco Bonnici. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Teachers’ union president Marco Bonnici. Photo: Jonathan Borg

People found guilty of threatening or injuring educators could face a fine of up to €5,000, according to a revised Education Bill to be presented in Parliament.

The Education Ministry is pledging to introduce harsher penalties through a provision in the law that had been withdrawn following the threatened strike action by the teachers’ union last October but which has now been included again in a revised Bill.

Contacted following calls by the Malta Union of Teachers for higher security at schools, a ministry spokeswoman said those convicted of threatening or causing bodily harm to school employees or people involved in the organisation of educational, cultural, social or sports activities would be liable to harsher punishments.

An additional fine ranging between €800 and €5,000 could also be handed down apart from other penalties provided by law.

“The ministry’s interest is to continue improving the educational experience of students and educators and consultation is ongoing with stakeholders. The proposed article [in the law] will also contain specific reference to learning support educators and kindergarten educators, as per MUT feedback,” she noted.The ministry’s interest is to continue improving the educational experience of students and educators

The teachers’ union called off a strike last October after a last-ditch conciliation meeting with the Education Ministry.

This followed disagreement over a proposal to tie teachers’ warrants to continuous assessment in proposed changes to the Education Act. The meeting between the two sides had also led to agreement on clauses regarding school licences, board structures and security.

Then, last week, the union reiterated its appeal for security guards to be stationed at all schools after presenting survey results about aggression incidents. Nine out of 10 of the 183 teachers who spoke to the union said they had experienced aggression at their school over the past two years.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo told the Times of Malta that even one case a day was worrying and the authorities would never protect anybody who verbally or physically attacked educators or school staff.

However, he did not believe there should be a security guard at every school, arguing that security needs varied. These included CCTV systems or people who specifically helped out with security issues.

Yet, the Education Ministry spokeswoman told this newspaper security guards would be engaged and security systems would be stepped up in all State schools.

A sum of €280,000 allocated in the last Budget to cover security at schools demonstrated the government’s commitment and ensured it would never tolerate violence against any educator or school employee, she said.

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