The PM’s vision: generic waffle and cliché

Bang in the middle of summer, the Prime Minister chose to explain his vision about education, constitutional reform and the pandemic before a cabinet meeting at the Chamber of Commerce. Why the Chamber of Commerce and not MCESD is, indicative and falls in line with a fixed mindset which would have made Thatcher sick with envy. But hey! At least we can console ourselves that he did not choose ONE TV to make his point.

The speech touched upon the need to train teachers to deal with effects of the pandemic on the education system by September. Of course, educators are now being called upon to pick up the pieces after blowing favourable single digit contagion figures over the span of six weeks. Had the government not given in to narrow economic interests that have thrown us further back than our previous worst case scenario, we would have less of an issue for schooling to resume safely in September.

Yet again, it is as if education (together with public health) is being asked to put straight extravagances of economic short-sightedness that benefit the few, spearheaded by the government itself. All in our name of course.

The prime minister then shifted the focus on a stronger emphasis on science and mathematics. The statement might be trendy, but it smells of generic waffle and a cliché, nonetheless. Not that there is anything wrong with improving science and mathematics per se, but if anything, one would have expected the prime minister to put emphasis where it is due. Gender differentials in science and mathematics remain the gulf they always were. So is the widening gender pay gap that plagues this area among others.

The prime minister’s exclusive focus on science and mathematics is also exclusionary of other equally important areas that our education needs to address; the humanities, history and critical thinking come to mind, particularly in the wake of the institutional crisis our country is grappling with. A people not equipped with a critical understanding of their past and the present cannot be in the best position to generate a future. Leaving this only to politicians with a small ‘p’ has got us to the point we are in today.

Constitutional changes passed through parliament recently, dubbed as historic by some, came next. While it is refreshing to see the wheel finally turning after decades of inertia, the reason for the speed of enactment is glaringly obvious and betrays a colonial mentality across the political spectrum.

We can rest assured that this was not an act of conversion on the road to Damascus. It was the risk of blacklisting from Moneyvaal and yet another thrashing by the Venice Commission. The constitutional amendments, please note, were passed in a flash before the summer recess; historic indeed, judging by the speed at which our legislators smelt the coffee. The fact that these points of contention had been placed in the public arena years ago by the likes of AD, civil society and others within the other parties themselves, seems to have escaped the PL and the PN.

For years, they have done their best to look at such proposals with contempt and to have them sidelined because it was not in their interest to consider them. The power wielded by successive prime ministers to appoint their very own blue-eyed puppets served them well in their quest to cement their respective party’s hold over the country and its institutions. Of course, the result is a country swimming in waves of muck of our (their) own making.

To add insult to injury, the national convention for constitutional change which had to include all, remains languishing on the same old back burner. They completely forgot all about it.

The country seems stuck in a competition of endless waffle and clichés traded between the two parties, propped up financially by the moneyed elite, which have kept a huge chunk of the population entranced by their empty rhetoric. In the meantime, they see education as a servant of an unsustainable economy, and important reform such as constitutional reform as a nuisance.

Let’s all enjoy our summer…

Mario Mallia
Published in the Maltatoday – Wednesday 26 August 2020