Malta from a different perspective

When you live with something you tend to under-appreciate it. It’s a common thing across the world. This is why I think we don’t value enough the beauty of this country

During a visit in Rome years ago, a B&B owner had said that she never visited the Colosseum.

This is despite the fact that she lived a few blocks away for 50 years. It’s strange, isn’t it? Millions of tourists every year come from every corner of the world to visit the Colosseum, and people just around the block don’t even bother. But it isn’t really. As Maltese, we have beautiful architecture and splendid churches everywhere you look yet every single day we pass them by, through the tourists with the cameras, with very little notice.

When you live with something you tend to under-appreciate it. It’s a common thing across the world. This is why I think we don’t value enough the beauty of this country. We take things for granted, and in fairness so do many people. I remember an interview by Paul Chandler – an Englishman who was kidnapped for ransom in Somalia for a harrowing 400 days – saying how you only realise the things you take for granted once they’re no longer there, including the freedoms and human dignity that western civilisations provide.

I think it’s time we stood up for this and be proud of our country. Of course, we should have the ability to self-reflect and acknowledge where we lack – and there are many things that could be done better. But we should also acknowledge the beauty in our country that is often only pointed out by outside eyes. People coming over, including well-travelled ones, describe us in amazing terms yet we would struggle to do the same.

I see this on a smaller scale in education. We sometimes underestimate the work that is being done on the ground and sell ourselves short. That is, until outsiders come over and tell us that, after all, we’re doing a pretty good job. I recently had the pleasure to meet Dr Eileen N. Whelan Ariza who had kind words on the work being done on the integration strategies in education being used in our system. Studies also tell us that various educational indicators are always improving and are now on a set positive trend. This is not the work of one minister or one educator, it is years and years of cumulative work to reach this position, through different governments. There is a lot that needs to improve but we’re getting there. Are we perfect? No, we’re not. But I see the passion of educators and the drive that these have to bring about change, to make education more relevant, to make lessons engaging and to reach a wider net of young people.

There’s no grey area in bullying

A lot has been written about bullying in schools. Bullying is a challenge in schools and something that seems simple from the outside, but has very thorny roots on the inside. I know the pain that bullying brings, not only on the child but also on the parents. There’s no grey area in bullying. The misconception that bullying somehow builds character is an antiquated idea that has no meaning. Bullying destroys, and it’s very powerful. This is especially true in the digital age, where it can take even more dangerous threads through anonymous cyber-bullying. It can make life hell for any young person.

Over the past years we have invested a lot in this area to tackle bullying, with more people employed in this unit to reach more children. Bullying is not something that starts and finishes in schools. It derives from social and emotional issues and unless we face those challenges, we will get nowhere. We cannot allow a situation where we think, in some cases, it is okay. It never is. Any parent who had to endure the misery of seeing their child bullied knows this.

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