Social media alight with tributes to Mario Mallia, school head sacked by Dominicans

St Albert college head of 16 years sacked by Dominican Order over “differences” finds massive public support from former students, co-workers, fellow teachers and activists

Mario Mallia
Mario Mallia

The Church Schools Association has taken a cautious, lukewarm stance at the dismissal of St Albert the Great’s head of school Mario Mallia by the Dominican Order, over “differences” that terminated his 16-year headship.

The CSA, founded in 2015 as a Catholic schools network that bills itself as having “an open response to contemporary culture”, acknowledged Mallia’s valid contribution to the educational inclusion of disadvantaged students and of students from different backgrounds. But it stopped short of calling into question the dismissal.

“He has always been looking for ways to improve the position of those less fortunate. The Association thanks Mr Mallia for his contribution to Church Schools over many years in caring for those less fortunate. The Association of Church Schools strongly believes that Church Schools should continue to be led through the contribution of lay people and religious and diocesan priests together, as is the case in the majority of Church Schools.”

The CSA is separate from the Maltese Archidiocese’s Secretariat for Catholic Education, which runs schools admissions, and provides curricular and administrative support for schools.

Dominican Order right of reply

What is evident is the public outrage at the dismissal of Mallia, who was accused of “usurping the school property” for allowing the Electoral Commission to use the school as a polling station against payment for the school, in a bid to alleviate the hardship of elderly voters having to walk to Fort St Elmo, as well as for “aggravated insubordination” after insisting to have college staff represented on a new board that liaises with the Dominican province of Malta.

The Order even cited misgivings over his curriculum programme aimed at fostering dialogue between children of different faiths, and for creating a cooperative for former college students who have a disability. In its original warning last month, the Dominican order expressed discomfort at his political involvement as an Alternattiva Demokratika official. This reason was then dropped in the letter of dismissal. Mallia insists that the school was already aware of his political activism, which predates his employment.

University of Malta pro rector Prof. Carmen Sammut called the dismissal a “massive slap in the face for all of us educators who are actively committed to educational inclusion as a step towards social justice.”

“His dismissal is also outrageous given the Church’s official views expounded in ‘One Church, One Journey: A process of ecclesiastical renewal (2020-24)’ that was published and is being promulgated by the archdiocese of Malta. While at this point I seriously wonder who is being insubordinate to whom, I know for a fact that Mario Mallia is loyal to his students and his profession.”

Former education minister Evarist Bartolo called on Archbishop Charles Scicluna to intervene and revere the decision. “How can the Order founded by St Dominic, who believed in fostering the value of humility over that of the sword, axe the head of an educator who lived this humility?... Mallia led this school with the finest and most inclusive of human values which we find in Cardinal Giuseppe Varaldi’s document of April 2017, ‘Educatnig for a brotherly humanism’.”

Co-worker Carlo Fenech described Mallia as a boss whose dedication to education went beyond mere teaching, but as a networker for parents and teachers who never shied away from menial school jobs. “My boss was the man who, together with his wife Josephine, wanted to take care of our children when both my parents and my wife’s were battling cancer. How can I be OK about this dismissal after 13 years?... Both my wife and I work at St Albert and our children attend this school: as Catholics we found in this man, since the very first day, Christian values that are lived with deeds, not words.”

Karen Piscopo desribed Mallia’s “beautiful community” at St Albert as “a school where educating the heart was equally, if not more important than educating the mind. On this day, I offer my solidarity to Mr Mallia as well as to his family.”

St Michael senior school headmaster Alfred Sant Fournier said Mallia was “an exemplary educator, innovator, a leader also with a vision for social justice... much needed in today’s world. I hope a solution is found for the benefit of all.”