Parents unable to make informed decisions about summer schools

Despite announcement that SkolaSajf would be opening 1 July, parents have been left relatively in the dark about what measures will be put into place 

Parents have been left relatively in the dark about what measures will be put into place at summer schools, leaving them unable to make informed decisions about whether or not to allow their children to attend.

Despite the announcement earlier in the week that childcare centres would be reopening on Friday and that SkolaSajf would also be opening on 1 July, the government has yet to publish guidelines.

Leaving parents with no idea what their children’s summer will look like, parents were also left dumbfounded by employers’ expectations to report physically to work when their children have to stay at home.

“Parents are questioning what type of experience their children will have – will they be taken on outings? What type of activates will they be doing? Will measures force kids to spend the majority of time indoors or outdoors? Parents have reached out because they are unable to make an informed decision, because they do not know what experience their child will have,” said academic Dr Glorianne Borg Axisa, who is president of the Malta Association of Parents of State School Students (MAPSSS).

Borg Axisa said that for many parents, it was about more than just depositing their children somewhere, simply to allow them to go back to work. “For many the experience that their child will have while not in school is an important factor, as well as what health protocols will exactly be in place,” she said.

While Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci did allude on Wednesday that childcare centres would likely have to take in fewer children to ensure social distancing, as of yet no clear guidelines have been issued.

“So at this stage, we have both parents and employers who are unclear as to how to proceed, because no information has been provided. And employers especially need this information to figure out how to best accommodate their employees,” Borg Axisa said.

She also said parents were in a precarious situation with children who are being taught remotely while at home. “In many cases they require support…. apart from helping children with homework and tasks, some children, especially those on the younger side, require their parent’s assistance even just to get online.

“Some parents are also concerned about other relatives. It’s not just a matter of taking children to their grandparents, because in a lot of cases grandparents may be part of a vulnerable group. So for some, it’s not just about sharing the responsibility with the grandparents – because some parents are just as concerned about their own parents as they are about their children.”

Borg Axisa said this left parents with a dilemma, to either leave their children alone unattended or take their children to their grandparents – both situations having their own safety issues.

MAPSSS wants the government to provide guidelines for both employers and employees. “Most parents want to go back to work; they want to fulfil their commitments to their employer. But they also have other commitments to their children and their parents. It is a complex situation which would only benefit from having guidelines stating what is expected from both the employer and the employee.”

Borg Axisa said this would allow for more flexibility, and allow parents to make informed decisions as well as create a more understanding environment for parents.

“While watching a medical bulletin it struck me that the questions asked by journalists concerned clubs and sports. What about parents who have to go to work? People are dismissing the role of parents, despite parents making up a large section of society,” she said.

Borg Axisa said employers should consider parents’ teleworking requests on a case-by-case basis, but guidelines from the authorities would make the issue less complicated, and streamline the system for employers.

“There is also an element of gender imbalance which should be addressed, because traditionally women are the ones expected to see to childcare.

“So this also is a social issue, because the majority of single parents are women. It is complex. While the government has published guidelines for many different sectors, and given many reassurances, parents appear to have been left out of the equation.”

More in National