“In extreme cases, children should be taken away from their family if they are not being sent to school” – Prof Borg
Following the report published by the National Office of Statistics, Professor Carmel Borg said he sees a link between absenteeism and poverty in areas such as Cospicua, which is the area where students are the most absent from school. In comments to TVM, Prof Borg proposed that in extreme cases, children should be removed from their families if they do not want to send them to school.
Prof Borg, from the Faculty of Education at the University of Malta, said that the statistics reveal the plague of absenteeism is present in certain areas more than others, even if over a period of five years there was a noticeable decrease in the number of children who are absent without reason.
”When you have children and families living in poverty, their first priority is to put food on the table and try to have a roof over their head and not education. Therefore the fight against poverty is automatically a fight against absenteeism”.
For Prof Borg, fining parents for not sending their children to school is not a solution and he proposes other action.
“The best solution is a positive, effective rapport between the school and home and the school’s environment which welcomes children, which loves and respects them and also loves and respects the teachers. If there are extreme circumstances where it is clear that the parents are not in a position to address the children’s fundamental rights, there is no other solution but to remove them from that environment temporarily or even permanently.”
The statistics confirm that the highest absentee rate continues to be registered at Government schools.
“You have a migration of children who are coming from the middle class. Therefore this migration has impoverished the social fabric of the state schools. Today we speak about general problems which you find everywhere but we have to admit that the worst problems are in the state school sector and this obviously reflects itself in the levels of absenteeism.”
Prof Borg also reflects on the trend among female students who are absent less than boys are.
“This is a statistic which we can link with educational success. As we know, girls are basically doing much better than boys in every aspect at all levels of the educational system.”
Prof Borg also noted that there has been a decrease of 25% in the absentee rate from 2012 – 2017, although the rate of more than half a million days of lost school days by students is considered high.
“Head to head, students are absent for almost 13 days of the scholastic year. Several reforms, including in the educational sector, have given us our first results, however, we still need to carry out an evaluation of other initiatives including the effect of co-ed education”.