The Office of the Commissioner for Children in a statement, stressed the importance for the need for children’s attendance in school to remain compulsory as stipulated by law and provide a guarantee to their right to education.
“Whilst it is also important to protect those children who may be vulnerable in light of COVID-19, the Office strongly suggests that only such children should be exempt from physically attending school on a case-by-case basis following professional advice and confirmation.”
The Office said that it is deeply concerned that if school attendance does not remain compulsory, children living in vulnerable situations, particularly those who were regularly absent from school prior to the pandemic, will continue to fall through the net. “Attendance for online schooling was already quite poor between March and June. We must also keep in mind those children for whom attending school is a ‘safe haven’. Parents/carers of these children may take the opportunity to keep them at home and continue to expose them to abusive situations.”
The Office of the Commissioner for Children also stated that school attendance is even more so crucial when research shows that children with a stronger sense of school belonging do better at school and have higher life satisfaction as outlined by the UNCEF Innocenti Report Card 16 Worlds of Influence, Understanding What Shapes Child Well-being in Rich Countries’. According to this study, Malta ranked low overall with regards to life satisfaction.
In the cases where children are unable to physically attend school and will follow online schooling, checks and balances should be in place to ensure that children’s rights and needs are being fulfilled.
The Office urged the Ministry for Education to put in place the necessary measures to ensure children’s wellbeing.