€47 million on new schools

Over these past three and a half years we have invested almost €47 million, and the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools has delivered major projects

The principle of co-education in Malta required alterations in all the existing schools to accommodate male and female students being educated together within the same premises
The principle of co-education in Malta required alterations in all the existing schools to accommodate male and female students being educated together within the same premises

The Ministry for Education and Employment will continue working to equitably reach more children and young people. In 2013-2014 we introduced two principles in education in Malta and Gozo, namely co-education in all secondary schools and the establishment of ‘Middle Schools’ within the secondary education level. We have also introduced further measures to have schools as communities instead of large anonymous assemblies to be able to reach all children.

This policy direction in education required a number of changes within the existing educational buildings. Thus, the principle of co-education in Malta required alterations in all the existing schools to accommodate male and female students being educated together within the same premises.

We have invested heavily in the provision of new schools and in the refurbishment of existing ones. Overall, these past three and a half years we have invested almost €47 million and the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools has delivered major projects which include new schools in Kirkop and Dingli; significant additions, major alterations and construction of new building blocks with the creation of sporting facilities in Bormla, Birkirkara and Rabat, to create new middle schools, each catering for a student population of 500.

We have also constructed a new block with lecture rooms, computer labs and science labs at Maria Regina College in Naxxar and the construction of an entire lecture block, adjacent to the present school – Sir M.A. Refalo Sixth Form in Victoria, consisting of seven lecture rooms, two Biology labs, two Physics labs, one Chemistry lab, four ICT labs as well as a hall.

In Xewkija improvements carried out include extensive refurbishment of classrooms, administration offices and the hall on ground floor level as well as the creation of extra-curricular and supporting classrooms on first floor level which hasn’t been used in recent years.  In 2014-15 we constructed a new kindergarten block adjacent to the Primary School in San Gwann.

The former Boys’ Secondary School at Ħaż-Żebbuġ, which closed its doors a few years ago and remained unused, was extensively refurbished and converted into a modern state of the art Primary School. By the end of this year we would have finished the construction of a new floor on the existing school in Għargħur preserving the same architectural features of the old school. 

Completion and finishing of works on various lecture blocks at the MCAST Campus and the construction of an underground car park were finalised at a cost of €11 million.

We more than doubled the facilities for disabled young people at Dun Manwel Attard Young Adult Resource Centre in Wardija by constructing  an additional floor and the construction of an entire new lecture block. 

The new National Sports School in Pembroke is a new bespoke school specialising in sports education with an interesting design layout with two very large multi-purpose halls, an indoor squash court, and a short-distance athletic track. The school also includes facilities for mainstream academic facilities.  In the coming years, we will be constructing a new indoor pool and new tennis courts within the premises to complement facilities at this new National Sports School.

We have also created a new childcare centre at Gżira and another one in Birkirkara within the building of the area Primary School.  Another childcare centre in Zebbug is due to be completed in February next year. Work on new state-of-the-art primary schools in Qawra, Marsascala and Victoria, will start shortly.

Another project, the St Margaret College Learning Support Centre in Cospicua involved extensive restoration on parts of the St Margaret Bastions in Bormla, and their adaptation into a proper learning environment. We have also built a football ground in Sta Venera, surfaced with synthetic turf certified for the world body of football, by FIFA.

Yes, this is an extensive list but by no means exhaustive. Yet, I wonder how the opposition claims that this government did not build any schools. If this is the viewpoint of the PN, and if the opposition does not acknowledge such progress in the educational field, then we are definitely living in a different country.

New and refurbished structures are not the only yardstick by which we should gauge improvement in our educational system. We have and will continue to increase the professionals within the colleges in the fields of guidance and counselling, social work, career guidance and psychologists.

Screening and intervention programmes to identify those problems that hinder the development of children from the age of 18 months will be launched. We will continue helping children at risk of vulnerability through books in English and Maltese, uniforms and other educational resources. We will also work closely with young persons between the ages of 13 and 25 especially in Birzebbugia, Marsascala, Zurrieq and Cottonera.

We will strengthen our literacy campaign and our summer courses in English and Maltese for non-Maltese students who find it difficult to communicate in Maltese or in English.

Training for Teachers will continue for both newcomers as well as those in service who will receive training to enhance pedagogy and to continually update themselves with new teaching methods and with modern devices.

This year the use of the Tablet will be introduced in Fourth Year Primary classes in all State, Church and Independent schools. We will further strengthen infrastructure to improve access to WIFI in schools.

We will continue with our commitment to strengthen the stipends of students at post-secondary institutions as well as those in higher and tertiary education. We will also give a stipend to students aged over 16 years who continue studying and training at the ALP school in Paola.

The government will be operating the National Council for Skills which will bring together economic partners with educational institutions to analyse the necessary competencies and skills required in the labour market in coming years.

We will continue work on capital projects at the University of Malta, including the extension of the Materials Engineering Lab, and the Mathematics and Physics buildings, buildings for Postdoctoral studies, building of the multi-religion centre and the renovation of the Valletta Campus and the Junior College. The government will be contributing towards the new University Residence and Community Car Park in Tal-Qroqq.

The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology will continue with the development of new buildings on the Campus of Engineering and Transport Institute as well as the Library and Learning Support Unit. The college will invest in courses and services in the maritime sector in collaboration with strategic partners, as well as create new resources for the Creative Arts Institute.

Through the new Science Centre – Esplora, Malta will have a permanent structure for informal interactive learning with exhibits and other activities related to science.

The improvements carried out in the educational field are considerable. During this legislature we have substantially increased capital expenditure but we do not regard educational investment as a competition and notwithstanding all the above, we still have a long way to go.

This government has no interest in winning an imaginary prize or trophy for the highest investment in structural development in schools but we are proud to have invested wisely by providing the necessary modern and safe environment for the development of education for our children.

Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment

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