10-year-olds given mock divorce referendum, religion 'O' level asks students for views on divorce

Year six school children in the Zebbuġ primary school were told to vote ‘no’ to divorce in a classroom 'referendum' supposedly intended to teach them about democracy, pro-divorce lobby Moviment Iva said.

The education ministry has contested allegations that Zebbug primary children had been "forced" to vote no in a mock referendum that was held as part of a classroom lesson in personal and social development (PSD).

“Nine voted in favour of divorce, while six said no. They wouldn’t have voted this way if they were told to vote ‘against’ divorce,” a spokesperson said.

The ministry confirmed the facts of the case reported by Moviment Iva, saying the divorce referendum was brought up during the lesson as a ‘contemporary’ example for a PSD lesson on democracy that was part of the standing syllabus. “The teacher, to make the lesson more interesting, used the referendum campaign as an example,” Schiavone said, adding that the children were also asked to stand up to make an argument in favour of or against divorce.

Asked about the sensibility of the decision to use an example that has considerable emotional baggage attached, the spokesperson held back from discussing the merits of the decision. “It is something that the teacher decided. The lesson was about democracy, and, he felt that to raise interest he used an real life example.”

The spokesperson was also asked about what education policy says about involving children in current affairs debates that have electoral significance. “I do not know what policy there is in that regard. I will know after I make enquires with the Education Division... I am not saying that the decision to use the divorce referendum as an example on how democracy works was a good idea."

The ministry had no comment to make on other allegations that the MATSEC 'O' level in religion contained a question on divorce that carried penalties for examinees who wrote in favour of divorce.

Speaking during a press conference on Saturday, Iva chairperson Dr Deborah Schembri slammed what she described as “indoctrination of children” during the Zebbug primary's PSD lesson.

“Children were told to mark ‘no’ on the ‘ballot’ paper, which was then placed into a classroom ballot box,” Schembri said. “These are 10-year-old children who are years away from being able to vote,” she said. “Why are they being drawn in the middle of an issue so directly?”

She added that the movement had contacted the school’s administration, which confirmed the mock schoolroom vote had taken place, and that the intention behind was to “educate children about democracy.”

“Why now?” she said, commenting on the seemingly opportune timing. “Why a question about divorce?” she added.

She also revealed that a religion 'O' level exam question, which students sat for earlier that day, questioned whether the students were against or in favour of the introduction of divorce. The MATSEC question asked students to 'react' to a statement such as 'divorce is only justified when there is no mutual love between a couple', and discuss the merits of their position.

“The concerned students were told by teachers that if they answered that they were in favour of divorce, they were not good Christians and would lose examination marks,” Schembri said.

"This is condemnable and shouldn’t be part of anyone’s agenda. There are ways and ways to involve children in the debate, but this indoctrination campaign needs to stop.”

Schembri said she was not singling out Moviment Zwieg Bla Divorzju specifically, “but it is clear that this is being done by the anti-divorce lobby.”

She also hit out at an anti-divorce billboard depicting a child that ‘asks’ the public to vote against divorce "in [its] name". “Who are we to think that one can put words into the mouth of any child?... Does that child come from a happy household, or from a broken family full of suffering and despair?"

The lobby also presented documentation quoting a Spanish academic who said that the introduction of divorce in Spain in 2004 led to a divorce rate that is normal compared to other countries, greater social equity in access to dissolution of marriage, rise in the rate of marriage, and greater economic protection for divorced women. The movement also quoted a Washington Post article published on May 18 which said that the number of long-lasting marriages in the United Sates has risen.

More in Divorce Referendum
avatar
This divorce referendum got out of hand. Fancy getting the children involve. Shame on you making an ass of yourself,and the politition should be shot for leaving it to the public to decide,too coward to pass it through legislation. To the priest if it is a sin, how many sins did they made?
avatar
Malta's shame!
avatar
Me and my ladies are not bothering. What is the point? Parliament will never pass the law with those fundamentalists in parliament. Ladies, join us for a BBQ and white siprits binge from 11am at Ghadira beach. Eat drink till late. This is a BBQ is only for emancipated but dissapointed free women who do not need to waste our time voting to appease others. It is our answer to this ridiculous countries fundamentalists. Bishops you are free to join us as you wear dresses
avatar
Mhux ta' xejn li l-għaref Platun jingħad kien qal, "Ġibuli t-tfal meta jkunu żgħar u nagħġinhom kif irrid".
avatar
Qed ninqdew bit-tfal ghall-finijiet ta' mohhna... imissna nisthu!!! Fl-opinjoni tieghi l-ebda billboard jew riklam qatt ma kellu jdahhal lit-tfal fin-nofs. Li waqt argument jissemmew nifimha ghax huma nvoluti imma mhux li relazzjoni qeda biss ghax hemm it-tfal... allura min ma kellux i-grazzja li jkollu t-tfal jista' jzarma imma min ghandu t-tfal irid jibqa' bil-fors... Jigifieri ghal Knisja z-zwieg huwa biss fejn hemm it-tfal? Dan x'argument hu? U jekk ikun spicca jridu jibqghu bil-fors minhabba t-tfal? Relazzjoni tassew felici... m' ghandix dubju li t-tfal ikunu kuntenti hekk...
avatar
Adrian Busuttil
This is the way the church has always worked, by manipulating young minds and conditioning their thinking. Remember your catechism lessons? It's coming out of hiding now, but this is nothing new. The church wants to retain it's power and will fight tooth and nail to keep it.
avatar
vera imisshom jisthu, Dawn mistoqsija ta tfal, fejna l-kummisarju ta tfal!!!!!!!!
avatar
nixtieq naf fejn qeda l kummissarju tat tfal.mela dan mhux stress fuq it tfal kummissarju? mela fejn jaqbel lilek titkellem? ara vera tal misthija dawn l affarijiet
avatar
Il-fatt li aktar tfal ivvutaw favur id-divorzju milli kontra ma jibdel xejn min-nuqqas ta' hsieb ta' l-ghalliem/ghalliema koncernata li biex tispjega dwar id-demokrazija taghmel mistqosija dwar id-divorzju. Ghalliem/a li taf il-pedogogija kienet taghzel suggett li t-tfal sikwit jiddibattu, thallihom jidibattuh u wara tghaddih ghall-voti.
avatar
John Mifsud
MATSEC 'O' Level candidates would be Fifth Formers in the 15-16 age bracket. Since they do not have the vote, I cannot see how the exam question can influence voters in any way.
avatar
All of us have experienced teachers and lecturers trying to influence their students on what they believe in. Speak to current university students and they will tell you how biased some lecturers are, and how some deep blue teachers could not keep away from politics in whatever they lecture. . Ethics my foot! . This is where the rector has to step in, rather than lose valuable time on censorship.
avatar
ghax ma saqsihom lit-tfal ghidlu , kif jifmuha t-tfal, "taqbel li int il-genituri tieghek hadu zieda ta 1.16 euro cents U Il-PM ha 500 euro zieda fil-gimgha?'.
avatar
Fejn hi l-Kummisjoni Elettorali ghax dan mhu xejn hlief corrupt practice. Iva min daqshekk suggetti li jistghu jigi mistoqsija kellha bzonn tizzeffen il-kwistjoni tad-divorzju mat-tfal u il-minuri. Din bil-fors saret bi provokazzjoni mil--kamp tal-knisja u tal-LE. Dan ir-referendum mhu xejn hlief farsa hekk ma jsir xejn dwar dan l-abbuz u ser jibqa timbru fuq il-paritit nazzjonalista li qed fil-gvern u ghandu i dmir jara li jhalli l-awtoritajiet kompetenti jinvestigaw u jiehdu azzjoni. In-nies ma tinsiex malajr.
avatar
Joseph Sant
@ Silent Citizen. Jekk int kuntent tghix hajtek fil-gideb dik affari tieghek. Li tipprova tiggustifika dawn it-tip ta' affarijiet juri biss servilizmu u meskinita.
avatar
Joseph Sant
The morality police is here already. If you want it to stay then vote No in the referendum. If you want to fight it back your only choice is a Yes.
avatar
The YouTube video clip is a case in point http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GpGdNdmf2s&feature=related There is a need to distinguish between the right to exercise religion and the fanatical abuse of the mind and emotions - especially of minors. Maybe this clip needs to be shown on Malta's TV in response to what is going on.
avatar
Now children, here is your lesson about democracy- you WILL vote this way. Please don't tell me this teacher is going to keeps it's job.
avatar
Tafu fejn jiddottrinaw it-tfal minn mindu jkunu ghadhom ta' eta hekk zghira ? F'pajjizi fejn ikun hemm dittatorjat ! F'Malta ghandna DITTATORJAT TAL-KURJA ArciveskoVILI ! Taw aktar raguni lill-patri Mark Montebello ghal dak li qal illum !
avatar
Isabelle Borg
Ikomplu jaqaw fil-hama.
avatar
Isabelle Borg
Ikomplu jaqaw fil-hama.
avatar
The teachers responsible for the class referendum are guilty of gross professional misconduct. Their faith is their own personal matter and should not be foisted on the kids, especially without the parents' consent.
avatar
speechless
avatar
Don't worry that is to teach children to lie- so one get points, lolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll good education:) good teacher:)
avatar
Dan il-pajjiz ma jistax jaqa aktar fil-baxx. Sewwa taghmel il-Madonna u tibghat terremot u teqirdu. Pajjiz ipokrita.
avatar
Raguni bizzejjed biex nivvota IVA bil-qalb.
avatar
Just when I thought they couldn't possibly go any lower...
avatar
Dear MATSEC Examiners, This is a topical question but the timing is very bad. Even if somebody would deny the statement that students were told that to write in favour divorce would be penalised, being a religion paper students would still think twice before writing in favour of divorce.
avatar
Patricia Marsh
Pajjiz ghal gol hajt
avatar
Meta f'ezami ta' li skola jew ghal xi job mal-gvern sibt 'loaded question' bhal din dejjem irrispondejt kif se nghogob lill-ezaminatur u mhux kif kien jghogob lili. Dejjem ghaddejt.