Blame it on ourselves

Coupled with the impossibility of having our children walk to their school because their school is several kilometres away, we are dependent on our cars

Everyone accepts the fact that the problem of traffic will be exacerbated by the opening of private schools on the day
Everyone accepts the fact that the problem of traffic will be exacerbated by the opening of private schools on the day

There is understandably a lot of concern about what the traffic will look and feel like tomorrow morning. Everyone accepts the fact that the problem will be exacerbated by the opening of private schools on the day. In fact there are some schools that do not even open tomorrow.

No one wants to take responsibility for the mess. It is a hot potato. So allow me to apportion the blame on the most unlikely culprits. Needless to say, nothing will happen after this far from literary contribution. 

I live approximately 175 steps away from a government school, but like a significant majority of middle-class parents I send my children to a private school, which can only be reached by car – unless I decide to take the public bus, which will take approximately 90 minutes, or walk it, which will take 65 minutes.

I do not send my children to a State school (a) because I believe, and am under the impression, that State schools do not make the grade and (b) because I have not got around to putting an ideological preference in favour of State-provided education, before the interests of my children. 

The truth is that I am not alone. For example the absolute majority of MPs and ministers with school-age children, including Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil, have never sent their children to a Maltese state school. 

The State’s incapability, or unwillingness, or lack of competence to raise the standards of State schools, or at least to make everyone believe that State schools are as good or better than private schools, means that we continue to send our children to private schools.

It is a real tragedy that we live in a country that pushes us into these situations. We drink bottled water because we do not trust tap water, visit private health clinics because we do not prefer national health clinics…

This means that every single day from Monday to Friday, I will have to drive through country and peripheral roads to go to a private school 6kms away. After the drive it looks as if we have driven for 12 km. It will take between 20-30 minutes to accomplish this journey. Since school starts at 8am it will mean that I cannot leave the house later than 7:26am. Later than this and I am f*****.

If I opt for private transport it would mean that the children have to be ready by 6:45am, which means they would have to wake up at 5:30am. And that is far too early and out of the question.

Every single day thousands of parents drive their children to school, because it makes more sense for them; others are also not happy with the lack of supervision on private transport. 

The truth is that the last time I engaged education minister Evarist Bartolo about this State/private school divide he gave me the impression that he had long given up on attaining the goal of making State schools better than private schools, so that the latter would have little or no more allure.

I could be wrong but that was the impression. There is no nation in the world that treats its own educational system with such disdain. There is no reason why State schools should not be superior. Sixth form and University are after all State-run and funded, so why cannot we make the grade in the rest of the school system?

Which is of course the reason, that tomorrow morning, the traffic problem will be so bad, that we will renew the age-old blame game and put all the culpability on Joe Mizzi, who let us face it, is no different to all the ministers I remember who were responsible for transport, such as Austin Gatt, Jesmond Mugliett and Michael Frendo.

The real solution would be to take cars off the road. Neither Muscat nor Busuttil would venture to take that option. But it is high time that on traffic and transport, the two political parties share a common strategy. I mean, why the hell should we trust one party over the other on transport?

Coupled with the impossibility of having our children walk to their school because their school is several kilometres away, we are also dependent on our cars. Primarily because we love cars, and secondly because most of us still cannot quite fit the schools schedule in a public transport system which is however ideal for anyone who has a tranquil life and wishes to go into Valletta to be seated for a cappuccino at a random time at Cordina.

So before we dive headfirst into that litany of recriminations and denunciations, we should really ask ourselves if we are ready to change once and for all our dependency on private transport.

Needless to say the answer will be a resounding no. So the next best thing, invest in some good music for those long waits in the congested traffic that we will be braving tomorrow.




While I am becoming more cynical as I grow older, I tend to love the Kamp Emergenza Ambjent (KEA) posse, because they are a group of honest people who live the life they preach. A far cry from those NGOs who are headed by ‘chairmen’ and presidents living in sumptuous villas with back gardens and pools, and preach to the rest of the public how ugly urban planning has become.

There is a forgotten story in the KEA saga: beyond the right to the foreshore and the fundamental objection to further construction outside development zones, we have to remember that there are hectares of land that were approved for development before 2013 and which should not have ever been accepted in the first place. 

While everyone is fighting the ODZ and foreshore battles, we should consider all the land that was included between 2006 and 2013 when George Pullicino and Mario de Marco were responsible for the Planning Authority. Certainly some background knowledge would not hurt people like Astrid Vella, Maria Grazia Cassar, Petra Bianchi, or Paul Cardona.

Even KEA should understand that every government, including this one, wants to see Manoel Island being totally developed. Because if Manoel Island were to be returned to the government, what would the government want to do with the land in question?

And if the Muscat administration seems suddenly so keen to appease protestors and enforce the law with Midi plc, why doesn’t it also remove all the land that was included in the development schemes back to the way things were in 2006? And the ODZ land it plans to take out for the Zonqor university?

I have to be cynical about this government action, which of course, is also calculated and intended to make short-term gains while the rest of the island braces itself for massive high-rise construction by other fat cats.

Because it is a hard sell for anyone to go against the property game. It would be impossible for any government to go out there and stop people wanting to make money. I wonder what someone like MP Marlene Farrugia – who makes most of her money from property deals (her €1.5 million Villa Bettina sale in Vittoriosa in 2011 is a case in point) – would make of this. Because fighting against the loss of ODZ land is valid, but it is also low-hanging fruit for wannabe environmentalists. What about those who are married to the cash that buying and selling property brings? Can these ‘environmentalists’ quench their thirst for more?