Security in public schools

Many incidents can easily be avoided if school management is more efficient than it currently is

An altercation between parents left two educators hurt at St Clare College in Pembroke
An altercation between parents left two educators hurt at St Clare College in Pembroke

The spectre of violence in schools has again been brought to the front following two incidents that were publicised in no small way by the media.

To be sure, such incidents – normally involving some parent or other relative of a pupil – have not started to occur recently. I remember discussing the issue with the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) when I was Minister responsible for Education some 23 years ago.

I always resisted raising boundary walls and fixing obnoxiously high metal railings or grilles as the MUT used to suggest. Making schools look like prisons was not part of my agenda.

I believe that many incidents can easily be avoided if school management is more efficient than it currently is. I cannot understand how an adult stranger is allowed to enter the school premises – usually by being given the nod by some caretaker who otherwise does nothing but praise the attributes of the political master (usually a minister) who fixed his posting in the school.

This is, of course, unacceptable.

What is the problem with ensuring that just after the school main door there is a foyer door (antiporta) that is permanently closed and can be opened only from the inside?

Fix an electric bell with a speaker that would have to be used by whoever wants to enter the premises so that someone in the Head’s office would be able to seek the purpose of the visit and decide whether it should be allowed while seeing the person through a CCTV camera. Is this very complicated?

In other words school authorities need to control who goes in and out of the school rather than face some enraged parent bustling in looking for the pupil or teacher or any other employee that ‘caused the problem’... so that their sibling’s pride is restored – by bullying or by using other foul means to ensure that whoever was the cause of the problem got their just rewards.

Such simple precautions would avoid the greater majority of cases of violence in schools involving outsiders.

The main underlying reason for this problem takes longer to understand and tackle. The real problem here is the idea that a parent or other relative can take over the discipline of the school in order to persecute whoever the child is complaining about. This is ridiculous!

I believe that many incidents can easily be avoided if school management is more efficient than it currently is

This also implies that many parents do not have any trust in the school authorities and think that their son or daughter are being unfairly treated – an issue that is real and could have serious consequences.

Head-teachers and their aides should seek to win the trust of the parents of the schoolchildren from Day 1, while encouraging them to go and civilly discuss any problem that the child could encounter at school.

From my experience, I sense that the attitude of many heads does not allow for such efforts. Heads should be trained for this, more so as some parents prove to be very difficult.

What the MUT should fight for is therefore better management of schools with unobtrusive security measures and school authorities seeking good relationships with parents.

The MUT should play its part as well, rather than just complaining about the situation.

The PM on pensions

The occasions when the Prime Minister put his foot in it are rare and far between. But the way he ‘explained’ that without the contribution of foreign workers, Maltese pensions are unsustainable was just one of those instances.

First the facts. The Labour Party in Opposition always avoided agreeing on a bipartisan policy on pensions. In government, they did nothing to ensure that the pensions system was sustainable.

Forget about the money present-day pensioners paid in National Insurance (NI) contributions. That money was used to provide the pensions to others at the time it was paid. Over the years, it was becoming obvious that with the number of pensioners increasing, the day when pensions could not be sustained by the NI contributions was getting nearer and nearer. Several reports on pensions clearly show this mathematical fact. Yet Labour refused to agree to an increase in the rate of NI contributions.

The increase in foreigners working in Malta and paying NI contributions changed the scenario. The day when pensions would no longer be sustainable was pushed forward into the future and it is now no longer an immediate threat.

The Prime Minister ‘explained’ this scenario by saying that opposing the increase in foreign workers is tantamount to leaving senior Maltese with no pension!

That is one way of saying it, of course. But it is the wrong way.

It has unnecessarily riled old-age pensioners.

He could have said that the increase in foreign workers has helped to avoid the increase in the rate of NI contributions that would otherwise have had to be imposed.

The fact that Joseph Muscat put the argument in such a shoddy qausi-insulting way perhaps indicates that Muscat is no longer on the ascendancy.

Is it a sign of the beginning of the end?

Just half a degree!

Developing countries will be the worst hit by heatwaves caused by global warming.

In an article published in Nature Communications, scientists compare two warming scenarios – with 1.5°C and 2°C temperature increases – and the impacts of the resulting heatwaves on societies with either high or low level of socio-economic development.

The scientists calculated the probability of occurrence of extreme heatwaves in different parts of the world under the two warming scenarios, with respect to the current climatic conditions.

They found that while extreme heatwaves will occur more often all over the world under the two warming scenarios, the half degree increase – from 1.5°C to 2°C higher temperatures – would lead to a radical increase in heatwaves in Africa, Middle East, as well as in parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America.

High population growth in these regions combined with low levels of socio-economic development make them very vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves.

Indeed, the study indicates that the populations in these areas will be exposed to greater levels of heatwave hazard in the 1.5°C warming scenario than populations in developed countries would be under the 2°C scenario.

The study urges a limit of global warming to below 1.5°C and to foster rapid socio-economic development – especially in sub-Saharan Africa where the most vulnerable populations are located – to mitigate the social and economic effects of future heatwaves.

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