Non-Maltese pupils now majority in six State primaries

Nearly 65% of pupils in Sliema, Gżira, Qawra and St Julian’s are non-Maltese, with data showing divide between north’s urban multiculturalism, and southern, rural villages

Children who are not Maltese nationals are a majority in six State primary schools, and account for over one-third of the population in 11, according to data tabled in parliament.

Foreign pupils now account for over 20% of the population in 21 State primaries.

The largest percentage of non-Maltese students is found in Sliema (66.5%), which hosts a large non-Maltese workforce, followed by neighbouring Gzira (65.8%), and then Qawra (65.3%), St Julian’s (62.2), St Paul’s Bay (59.9%) and Msida (53.3%).

The concentration is typical in the harbour area of towns that tend to house high-income foreign nationals, and in the northern towns of St Paul’s Bay and Qawra where low-income foreigners seek out cheaper rental accommodation.

In Gozo the largest percentage of non-Maltese is found in Żebbuġ (45.3%), which also incorporates the locality of Marsalforn.

In the south, the locality with the highest percentage of foreigners is Marsaskala where they account for 46.2% of students attending the two primary schools. But the only other locality in the south where foreigners account for more than one-fourth of the student population is Birzebbugia, where 28.3% are non-Maltese.

In the harbour area, the largest percentage of non-Maltese pupils is found in Ħamrun where they account for 26.6% of the population in two primary schools. Foreigners also account for just over a fifth of students in Marsa. In contrast foreigners account for only 4% of students in Bormla’s primary school.

The statistics reveal a sharp division between urban northern localities and the southern villages, where non-Maltese pupils account for less than 10% in 30 primary schools, and less than 5% in 11 rural and southern localities.

The smallest percentage of non-Maltese students is found in Mtarfa (1.1%), Qrendi (1.7%), Bahrija (1.9%) and Dingli (2%). In Gozo the smallest percentage of foreigners is found in Kercem (2.7%).

This suggests that while many students are exposed to a multicultural reality in major urban centres, this is not the case in several smaller villages where most students are Maltese.

And populations in Sliema and Gzira are overtaking Qawra as the locality with the largest percentage of non-Maltese students. In Sliema the percentage of foreigners increased by 4.9 percentage points in a year, and by 6.3 points in Gzira and 6.6 in St Julian’s.

But the sharpest increase in foreigners was seen in the two primary schools in Marasaskala: 11.7 points in the new St Joachim school and 8.4 points in St Anne school. The locality is home to a growing foreign population, particularly Italians.

At the other end of the table, Siggiewi, whose percentage of foreign students increased from just 1.7% last year to 3%, lost the bottom spot to Mtarfa, which has only one non-Maltese student in its primary school.

Overall, the number of non-Maltese primary school children increased from 4,290 (19.1%) last year to 5,204 now (22.6% of total primary school children).

The statistics do not include students attending church and independent schools which also attract a significant percentage of students hailing from affluent Maltese families.