Education Minister Justyne Caruana was non-committal on any form of timeline for the reopening – even for limited demographics – of English language schools, despite worries by the sector that their closure might leave over 2,000 at risk of going jobless.
Caruana was asked by The Malta Independent whether the government could give any indication as to when English language schools – which officially had to shut their doors on Wednesday as part of the government’s latest tract of Covid19 measures – can reopen their doors for students.
“What I can assure you is that we are in discussions, and that the final decision will always be in the best interest of the sector and of the general public and the country”, Caruana told this newsroom.
English language schools were shut after a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases was traced back to unvaccinated students coming to study English in Malta. The measures, announced last week, were generally praised, but left English schools reeling in shock over the suddenness of the decision, saying that they had been scapegoated.
2,000 jobs, they said, are at risk as a result of the closures, and the federation representing the schools, FELTOM, insisted that schools should be allowed to remain open, at least for vaccinated adult students to be able to continue face to face learning.
Asked whether the decision to close the schools was drastic and whether schools could have been allowed to remain open for vaccinated students, Caruana said that they had followed the direction of the health authorities, and that the health of the public as a whole had to be kept in mind.
She said that the ministry had been in discussions with schools, health authorities and even the Tourism Ministry to offer assistance to the sector, so the government had been giving the sector a lot of importance.
“However we then had these developments [the increase in Covid-19 cases], so we have to be cautious to see what impact they’re going to have; then we can then eventually take decisions which are in everyone’s best interest, not least for this sector”, Caruana said.
Asked whether there will be further support measures for such schools to make up for the fact that they have had to shut their doors during their peak period, Caruana said that discussions are going and that announcements will be made once they are finalised.
“I can assure everyone, however, that we are conscious of the situation, that we appreciate the importance of this sector and that we will give all support possible so that it continues to strengthen itself and flourish”, she said.
Wednesday was the first day when language schools had to close their doors under measures announced by the government last week.
Health Minister Chris Fearne on Tuesday said that Covid-19 cases had been detected at no less than 16 English language schools.
The decision however has left the sector reeling, with FELTOM saying that 2,000 full-time jobs are at risk.
In a meeting with the government on Tuesday, FELTOM asked that vaccinated adult students be allowed to continue to learn face to face without further postponement, that a rescue package to protect the 2,000 jobs that depend on this industry in order to survive be outlined, and that work can be done together to safeguard Malta’s reputation and instead create an image enhancer for the country.
“FELTOM feels that the language school industry has been serving as the scapegoat. Its members now eagerly await a reply from government that, till Tuesday, has not as yet given any concrete guarantees towards a reversal of what has been a complete disaster”, the federation said in a statement.
They warned that schools are facing 15,000 booking cancellations, a loss of €36 million in revenue, and the “complete liquidation of companies and the decimation of a 58-year-old industry.”