[WATCH] Minister: ‘People must live freely without fear of prejudice or hatred’

Education minister condemns attacks that undermine diversity at schools after allegations of ‘banned pork’ in St Paul’s state primary

Education minister Evarist Bartolo • Photo by Ray Attard
Education minister Evarist Bartolo • Photo by Ray Attard

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Education Minister Evarist Bartolo has lambasted attempts to cast a shadow on the success of schools whose pupils successfully co-exist irrespective of their social and economical backgrounds, religious beliefs or ethnicity.

Bartolo defended St Paul’s Bay primary school – propelled in the news over allegations from anti-Islam nationalists that it had banned pork products – as “a shining example of the diverse cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds of its pupils and how an inclusive community can be built around that”.

The leader of Ghaqda Partijotti Maltin Alex Pisani no Sunday alleged that children at the St Paul’s Bay state primary were forbidden from eating pork at school due to its high population of Muslim students.

The claim was immediately denied by the head of the school, Josette Dalmas. “I am sick and tired of having our school come under attack because of its diversity,” Dalmas said.

“I appreciate that it is hard to live together with all these differences particularly when the differences lie in religious beliefs and culture,” Bartolo told MaltaToday. “But I also firmly believe this can be a good thing.”

He said many teachers were facing unprecedented challenges in having to cope with so many differences in their classes.

“But when faced well, these challenges can only lead to good things, as young people will learn to cope with the realities of the world in the 21st century.

“The key is to never impose ideas on others and to allow everyone to exert their beliefs freely,” he said, adding that these were the pillars of the democratic society we lived in.

“We need to allow people to live, and believe freely without fear of prejudice or hatred, because interaction with different cultures and religions is becoming ever more common.”

Bartolo said embracing differences was the only way forward if the country wanted to cope with the world around it. “This is a global trend, and as such we need to learn to embrace diversity both throughout our country and the world if we wish to survive,” he said.