4.5 Initiatives promoting social inclusion and raising awareness
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Young people's rights
Key initiatives to safeguard democracy and prevent radicalisation leading to violent extremism
Malta believes that breaking down cultural barriers, building a society on inclusion that values diversity, sets us in considering the other person as equally valuable, thus, putting us in a background of an ongoing learning process that provides the possibility of mutual understanding and the need for mutual recognition of cultural identities. To this effect, Malta continuously evaluates and monitors the needs of learners to ensure that the education system promotes a culture of dialogue and democratic values, creating a space for community building at the national level, through a number of best practices.
Malta has undertaken numerous measures in connection with the implementation of Malta’s Migrant Integration Strategy and Action Plan - Vision 2020 “INTEGRATION = BELONGING”:
- The Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) set up a One Stop Shop within MEDE. The One Stop Shop provides dedicated services and a focal point for Migrants services on Education and Employment.
- Personal, Social, Career Development (PSCD) continues to be given paramount importance in the Maltese educational system, that promotes a human rights culture. Students develop skills and attitudes necessary for a complete integration of human rights. PSCD educators offer holistic learning that promotes the development of students’ intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic and creative potentials. PSCD also touches upon values clarification where students are given opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs and values and to confront them with others in a safe framework based on the dignity of every human being, freedom of thought and expression, and the respect for others' opinions.
- With regard to compulsory education, the setting up of the Migrant Learners’ Unit has strengthened the provision for inclusive support for children from a migrant background. The programme enacted focuses on the learning of Maltese and English which are the languages of schooling in Malta. Other academic subjects are taught adopting a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach. This programme focuses on each learner’s well-being offering a holistic educational experience while focusing on the acquisition of linguistic and socio cultural competences. The programme is offered in 28 schools in Malta and Gozo. A newly introduced induction provision for secondary aged learners is running as of the start of this scholastic year.
- Also with regard to compulsory education, since 2011, the Ministry for Education and Employment has been involved in the Language Learning and Parental Support for Integration (LLAPSI and LLAPSI+) Projects, a series of EU-funded projects mainly through the Integration Fund (IF), the European Refugee Fund (ERF) and currently the Asylum and Migration Integration Fund (AMIF). Most of the projects focused on the upskilling of teachers, procurement of teaching materials and the development of learning and assessment tools.
- The current LLAPSI+ project also includes the recruitment of a team of Community Liaison Staff with the main objective of school outreach to support parents and guardians whose children are in schooling. This initiative contributes to consolidating the home-school links and works towards building a more cohesive society even within the school communities. The Migrant Learners’ Unit also has the services of a social worker and a counsellor who work in the different schools and hubs.
- Through the LLAPSI+ project, the Migrant Learners Unit has also offered a summer intensive language course – the Language 2 Go! – with the aim of supporting newly arrived learners who are still struggling with learning the languages of schooling. The courses have been offered annually in four different sites in both Malta and Gozo.
- Apart from substantial language training components, the current LLAPSI+ project includes components such as ‘Making Friends-Bringing Friends Clubs’, an afterschool creative club with the aim of providing an opportunity for newcomer learners to work together and strengthen the relationship between different cohorts including EU nationals and the hosting community.
- From the side of the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), there was the setting up of the Integration Unit at MCAST within the Students’ Outreach Department. In recent years, the number of international students has constantly increased and thus the Integration Unit will seek to co-ordinate and streamline new and existing activities related to integration of students, such as Diversity days.
- To assist the Integration Strategy, MCAST has and will continue to deliver language courses to migrants in both Maltese and English through its Learning Support Unit and its Six Thematic Institutes. Moreover, MCAST has been commissioned by the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality (MEAE), Human Rights and Integration Directorate, to develop and deliver 3 particular Skills Kits as part of the Stage 1 Pre-Integration Certificate as outlined in the Migrant Integration Strategy and Action Plan 2020. These 3 Skills Kits will be pegged at MQF Level 1 and will cover 20 contact hours for Maltese, 20 hours of English and 20 hours of Cultural Orientation focusing on basic services available which participants find useful in their everyday life.
- Also from the side of MCAST, there were structured meetings with international students; participation in continuous professional development (CPD) sessions for staff members, together with one-to-one meetings with individual students.
- The Department of Inclusion and Access to Learning of the University of Malta has been commissioned to design, deliver and oversee the implementation of an important part of the migrant integration process. The Directorate for Human Rights and Integration within the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality has commissioned the department to provide the Stage 2 integration courses in Maltese (MQF 2) and Cultural Orientation. Stage 2 courses inter alia fulfil the integration requirements laid down in law for long-term residence applicants. The same agreement includes for the first time prior training in adult education for integration, for the educators who will be delivering the Stage 2 courses.
- As part of the University of Malta’s internationalisation programme, the University of Malta is seeking to attract a number of non-EU/EEA nationals to read for Masters and Ph.D. programmes in different areas of study, to strengthen the research and innovation dimensions of the University of Malta. The University of Malta continues to develop new postgraduate courses in diverse areas of study, a number of which are launched each year.
- Within the Ministry for Tourism (MOT), the Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS) is also supporting the Integration Strategy on the ground. ITS enrols numerous foreign students and the Institute makes it a priority to make them feel welcome by encouraging also other national students to help them and make them feel that they belong at the Institute.
- The Directorate for Research, Lifelong Learning and Employability within the Ministry for Education and Employment pursues a policy of inclusivity. Lifelong learning courses are open to both Maltese and non-Maltese nationals. The Directorate has developed courses in Maltese-as-a-foreign-language (MFL) and English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL). At enrolment stage, asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection are given the same rights as Maltese and EU citizens. Courses in English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) and Maltese-as-a-foreign-language (MFL) offered by the Directorate for Research, Lifelong Learning and Employability within the Ministry for Education and Employment are accredited and lead to the awarding of a General Education Award at Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF) levels 1 and 2.
- The Institute for Education’s initial teacher training courses include modules on the subject to ensure that the new teaching workforce is capable of creating the inclusive envirornment conducive to learning required by all learners. It also offers accredited short courses on multiculturalism in education, how to include international learners in the learning experience classroom and courses that empower senior management teams in schools to create a multicultural environment. The Institute for Education will also be organising a sysmposium on multiculturalism in education around June 2020. Foreign keynotes will be addressing the audience to discuss issues that schools and the community are facing on a daily basis. Experts researching in the area will be given the platform to share their findings so that schools may have the opportunity to adopt and adapt to their own particular situations. The Institute for Education is also creating supporting resources for schools to pick and choose from according to their particular needs and demographics.
In addition to the above, the Inclusive Employment Services, a Division with Jobsplus, the Public Employment Services, provides targeted assistance to vulnerable people which amongst others include youths, persons with disability, former prison inmates and substance abusers. The division aims at facilitating the transition to employment of these groups by equipping them with the transversal skills and knowledge required to enter the labour market and retain gainful employment.
The Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes within the Ministry for Education and Employment is highly committed to engage students and educators in Global Education matters. Indeed DLAP launched the GENE (Global Education Network Europe) programme on a national level during scholastic year 2018/19.
During this first year of GENE, schools were invited to take an active role in GENE by planning and implementing school-based projects addressing one or more of the following themes: Human Rights, Global Citizenship, Multiculturalism and Interculturality and Peace and Conflict Prevention. Each project was allocated GENE funding for implementation. Participating schools will present their project outputs in June 2019.
The 9 educational institutions participating in GENE addressed directly Multiculturalism and Interculturality. The theme promoted among students and educators was the appreciation of cultural diversity, peaceful cohabitation and collaboration between multi-national citizens towards a more just and equitable global community.
The theme of Multiculturalism and Interculturality was addressed through a number of measures that include:
i. Embedding in the formal curriculum through literacy, supported by teaching aides financed through GENE funding.
ii. National Kafe Kultura initiative. This initiative provided students and educators the opportunity to plan, organise and participate in school-based informal dialogue sessions with multi-national citizens.
iii. Student-led expo initiatives addressing multiculturalism and Global Citizenship. The schools in collaboration with DLAP have embarked on another initiative related to SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions through the ARTMILE initiative. This initiative commenced in May 2019 and will proceed throughout the next scholastic year 2019-2020.
The learning programmes within these schools spanned over scholastic year 2018 – 2019. These efforts will be extended over to the coming scholastic years.
The UNESCO Art Camp initiative was also recently held in the local context. During this event artists of different nationalities collaborated to create artwork promoting peace and cultural diversity. Students from three schools, namely, St Ignatius College Middle School Handaq, The Malta Visual and Performing Arts School and San Andrea School participated in visual and performing arts workshops moderated by the international artists.
Moreover, 3 schools participated in the Traditional Games across Europe initiative organised by the Centre for Physical Education and Sport. This initiative that took place during scholastic year 2018/19 promoted sport as an instrument for dialogue and peace across nations.
The Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes in collaboration with GENE during this scholastic year also coordinated a 16-hour training course in Global Education for educators across all cycles and sections and school Senior Management Teams. The course entitled: Introduction to Global Education aims to provide participants an opportunity to:
• Develop an understanding of the fundamental concepts underlying GENE and Global Education.
• Appreciate the importance of responsible global citizenship.
• Discuss education strategies, on how to include Global Education in the school experience of learners, to emphasis regional diversity and inequality.
• Discuss strategies, on how to address educational barriers to provide quality education.
• Discuss the role of education in a neo-liberal economy.
• Explain the causes of education inequalities and discuss strategies on how these can be addressed both within the classroom and the school structure in general.
• Analyse the education barriers within the school structure and discuss ways how to foster inclusive school policies
A second GENE-funded training module entitled: Global Education for Social Justice is planned to for scholastic year 2019/2020.
Young people's rights
The Office of the Commissioner for Children, which falls under the Ministry is established by law to promote and advocate for the Family, Children's Rights and Social Solidarity,rights and interests of children. The Office carries out various initiatives to create awareness about rights. These initiatives include research projects on various issues concerning children.
Advocacy work on children’s rights is done through activities carried out in the community and schools, as well as through the dissemination of publications and the media. The Office also disseminates publications on children’s rights and organises activities for children and young people. The Office also promotes child participation and has a Council for Children consisting of children themselves and representatives from various Ministries to discuss matters relevant to the work of the Office.
The Office also makes use of its website and its social media, mainly Instagram and Facebook page to create awareness. It is also part of the BeSmartOnline! project to raise awareness and educate children and teens, parents/carers and educators on the safer use of the Internet.
One of the main initiatives is the annual Rights 4U live-in. This yearly activity consists of an interactive programme which includes various activities in which is the Rights 4U live-in, where young people attending not only learn about their rights, but also actively explore and engage in discussions on these rights. The aim of the Rights4U live-in is for participants to develop critical thinking skills, build social ties and implement concepts such as respect, responsibility and inclusion.
The main target groups are children and young people under the age of 18 years old as well as parents/carers, educators and other professionals working with children.
The implementation of young people’s rights can be effectively analysed through the provision of various policies and strategies as well as benefits and services.
In Malta, access to education, healthcare and social welfare services are free for all (including young people). A number of universal and targeted measures are in place to enhance the income of families and individuals. The Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity (MFCS) provides social benefits as well as measures aimed at improving employability and inclusion prospects through activation and social welfare services. These social benefits and welfare services not only provide social protection, but also act as activation measures to encourage the entry, re-entry and retainment in the labour market. Apart from the provision of financial benefits payable by virtue of the Social Security Act (Chapter 318 of the Laws of Malta) and other in-kind benefits, as explained above, MFCS also offers housing arrangements and social welfare services to help young people overcome inequalities and have a better quality of life. Some of these main initiatives or measures which impact young people include: i) universal benefits and services such as social assistance, unemployment benefits, children’s allowance and subsidised life-long learning; and ii) targeted benefits and services such as the Youth Guarantee Scheme, the tapering of benefits, the in-work benefit, the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the State Funded Food Distribution (SFFD), projects by the community-based LEAP Centres, as well as housing schemes and residential settings.
Universal benefits and services:
· Social assistance: It is provided to each person aged 18 years or over, being a head of household who is deemed unfit for employment due to physical or mental illness; being a single parent or separated person who is unemployed because of family responsibilities; being a single person living alone or with anyone else not being his/her parents who is unemployed due to illness and; or persons considered as being unable to enter the labour market by Jobsplus. In addition, persons in receipt of social assistance are entitled to an energy benefit, while those living in privately rented accomodation are also entitled to a rent allowance.
· Unemployment benefits: Persons who are 16 years of age or over, register with Jobsplus and satisfy a minimum of 50 paid social security contributions from their first employment and an average of 20 contributions in the two years prior to date of registering as unemployed, are entitled to the unemployment benefit. This benefit is intended to be a short-term measure lasting for a maximum period of 156 days, whilst a person is actively seeking employment. Following this period, the unemployed person may apply for long-term social assistance in the form of unemployment assistance which is means tested. In order to qualify once again for the unemployment benefit, the person has to work for 91 continuous days (13 weeks) beginning from the 156th day of his/her previous unemployment benefit entitlement.
The unemployment benefit, which is not means tested, is flat rated and subject to a yearly percentage raise according to the cost of living allowance (COLA) granted in the national annual budget. Entitlement to this benefit is computed on a 6 day week basis.
If a person under 18 years of age satisfies the contributions tests (50 and 20) will be entitled to unemployment benefits. Young people benefit from social welfare benefits through custodial care benefits, such as children's allowance, disabled child allowance, and foster care allowance, which are paid up to the age of 16 years. Youths aged 16 years and over who are certified by a Medical Panel appointed by the Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity (MFCS), as suffering from a disability as listed in the Social Security Act Chapter 318 (section 27), are entitled for the disability pension (14 years old in case of persons who are visually impaired). As from January 2015, all youths up to the age of 24 who are not engaged in studies or work are encouraged to join the Youth Guarantee Scheme offered by the Ministry for Education and Employment which provides a work placement or a training programme to enhance their skills, together with support from psychologists, occupational therapists and job coaches.
Persons who are unable to continue working due to medical reasons, are awarded an invalidity pension at a rate which is based on the number of social security contributions paid. A contributory invalidity pension is awarded to those persons who paid 250 contributions, completed a minimum of six months of uninterrupted employment or a year of Jobsplus’s Part 1 registration, and are found by the Social Security Department’s medical board to be permanently unable to work due to physical or mental illness. Eight different rates of invalidity pension are available, depending on the applicant’s civil status and his/her paid/or credited social security contributions.
· Children’s Allowance: All parents entrusted with the care and custody of their children (until children are aged less than 16 years) are given the Children’s Allowance as income benefit according to yearly income. Different rates apply depending on the family’s income earned. Additionally, apart from the Children’s Allowance, parents of children having physical and/or mental disability receive the Disabled Child Allowance.
· Lifelong learning: lifelong learning opportunities are provided at a low cost aimed at improving the educational and employment prospects of everyone, including young people.
Targeted benefits and services:
The social inclusion of certain groups of young people, such as young parents and young people aged below 23 years, are also promoted through the maternity benefit, the free childcare services (0-3 years) and the after-school care services (3-16 years), as well as the targeted Youth Guarantee Scheme, Tapering of Benefits, In-Work Benefit, Servizz Għożża, FEAD and SFFD, Child Participation Assessment Tool (CPAT), as well as projects by the LEAP Community Centres:
· Maternity Benefit: The Maternity Benefit is given to both unemployed and employed (including self-occupied) pregnant women. Unemployed pregnant women receive €94.35 per week, while employed pregnant women receive €175.84 per week. Those women who request an extension of the maternity leave will continue to receive this benefit up to four weeks under the Maternity Leave Benefit.
· Childcare services: As from April 2014, parents/guardians of children aged from 0 to 3 years who are engaged in employment or in education are provided with free childcare services.
· After-school care services: An after-school care service named Klabb 3-16 is provided from Monday to Friday to children between the ages of 3 and 16 years, attending State, Church or Independent schools. During school holidays, the service is available for children whose parents are following a course or are in employment. In addition, students whose parents are in employment have the opportunity to enjoy a healthy breakfast before school starts through the Breakfast Club which operates in State Schools on a daily basis.
· Youth Guarantee Scheme:Through the Youth Guarantee Scheme, after their youngest child is one year old, single parents under 23 years of age can undertake employment, education or training, whilst securing their receipt of the social assistance benefit and free childcare. Furthermore, single parents receiving social assistance and who enrol in full-time education or equivalent vocational courses, are entitled to a credit of between €200 and €1,000.
· Tapering of Benefits: The tapering of benefits aims at introducing persons in receipt of social assistance or unemployment assistance to the labour market, after having registered for work for more than a year. When these persons engage in employment, the unemployment benefit or social assistance is not fully terminated but decreases over a period of three years (65%, 45% and 25%).
· In-Work Benefit: In-work benefit was introduced to parents (including single mothers) with children under the age of 23 years residing in same household. Where both parents are in employment, and earn a combined income between €10,000 and €24,630 per year are eligible and the maximum rate per child per year is €1300. In the case of single parents, earning between €6,600 and €17,130 are eligible and the maximum payable rate per child per year is €1350. In case of one parent in employment earning between €6,600 and €17,130 are eligible and the maximum payable child per year is €550.
· Servizz Għożża provides services and educational programmes to pregnant minors, with the aim of adopting a positive attitude towards motherhood.
· Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the State Funded Food Distribution (SFFD): food packages distributed to the most vulnerable, including households with young people.
· The Child Participation Assessment Tool (CPAT): Since November 2018 till present, the Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity (MFCS), in collaboration with the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (MFWS), has been working on the implementation of the Council of Europe Child Participation Assessment Tool (CPAT). This is in line with Article 12 ‘the right of children to be heard’ of the UNCRC, as well as with three Council of Europe Recommendations and its Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021). The said joint project will end soon in November 2019, and shall capture the reality of child participation in different sectors and at various levels in Malta, with a view to improving this access to participation. Towards this purpose, a wide range of stakeholders, including Government, NGOs and children themselves, were asked to provide their feedback on the 10 indicators of the CPAT. This project will lead Malta to:
- undertake a baseline assessment of current implementation of child participation;
- help identify measures needed to achieve further compliance;
- provide benchmarks to measure progress over time; as well as
- strengthen monitoring and accountability.
· Various projects within the LEAP Community Centres aim at skilling and empowering young people in Malta, especially in the most disadvantaged areas.
· Malta also provides a number of housing services and initiatives from which young people may directly or indirectly benefit. Some of these schemes and services offered by the Housing Authority, which also falls within the remit of MFCS, include:
- Grant to assist owners in the construction and/or completion or rehabilitation of their first home;
- Installation of lifts in Government owned residential blocks/entrances;
- Rent Subsidy in private rented residences;
- Scheme for persons with disability;
- Sir Sid Darek 2014;
- Subsidy on adaptation works in residences occupied by owners or tenants; and
- Incentives to families and young couples that enable them to become home-owners, through for example the First Time Buyers Stamp Duty Relief Scheme whereby first time buyers can benefit up to €5,000 in stamp duty on the purchase of immovable property.
For further information, access housingauthority.gov.mt.
· Malta provides a number of special housing facilities and residential settings for children and young people at risk of social exclusion, particularly those requiring out-of-home care (mainly run by the Catholic Church). Apart from a number of residential homes for children, such as the Creche run by the Ursuline Sisters, there are also a number of residential facilities for adults and young people, for example:
- Fejda provides shelter and a safe environment for female adolescents who suffer from emotional and/or behavioural difficulties;
- Dar Osanna Pia provides professional intervention and shelter for young men aged 18 years and over who are experiencing various forms of crises and social difficulties;
- Suret il-Bniedem Foundation offers holistic residential care through its four homes:
Ø Dar Tereza Spinelli welcomes homeless, single women, girls aged between 15 and 18 and women with children;
Ø Dar Patri Leopoldo welcomes homeless men and boys;
Ø Dar Victoria and Dar Franġisk welcome people who suffer from mental health problems.
- Sedqa agency and Caritas offer a number of residential settings for the rehabilitation of people with addictive behaviour.
- Appoġġ agency also provides residential care to children and young people in need by:
Ø offering a therapeutic programme to cater for children and young persons who require semi-secure residential accomodation;
Ø providing adequate placements for children and young people who require out-of-home care and experience socio-emotional difficulties.
- Sapport agency provides various residential facilities for persons with disability as well as a temporary residential programme to support these young people in their transitional phase to more permanent accomodation.
In addition to measures and initiatives, Malta commits to certain national policies which aim at promoting the social inclusion prospects of young people:
· National Strategic Policy for Poverty Reduction and for Social Inclusion (2014-2024): This policy is a commitment to reduce poverty and social exclusion through the promotion of well-being and improving the quality of life. It targets four population groups: (a) children and young people, (b) elderly, (c) unemployed, and (d) working poor. This document is based on six dimensions: Income and social benefits, employment, education, health and environment, social services and culture, where several strategic policy actions are proposed under each dimension to enhance the prospects for all citizens, particularly vulnerable groups.
· National Strategic Policy for Positive Parenting (2016-2024): This policy aims to build and sustain a positive culture and infrastructure for parents as well as their children. It emphasises the strengthening of existing services while suggesting new parenting programmes.
· The Strategy for Retirement and Financial Capability (2017-2019): This strategy focuses on long term planning giving importance to the saving aspect with the aim of having a decent living during the retirement phase. In view of this, the strategy proposes various communicating messages as well as programmes segmented to different specific population and employment cohorts which include, amongst others, teenagers (13-19 years) and young adults (20- 30 years).
· National Children’s Policy: This policy reflects Malta’s commitment to promote and safeguard the rights of all children (persons aged less than 18 years), through the three pillars of protection, provision and participation of children. Particular reference is made to issues which hinder or facilitate the wellbeing and social inclusion of adolescents, such as risky and addictive behaviour, and the transition from adolescence to adulthood, respectively. In this policy, certain groups of adolescents are specifically targeted, such as those leaving institutionalised care which are to be appropriately prepared and supported in their transition to independent living through education, training and/or employment by the development of an after-care plan and follow-up. Based on five dimensions: (i) home environment, (ii) social wellbeing, (iii) health and environment, (iv) education and employment, and (v) leisure and culture, this policy puts forward 110 actions. The monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of this policy has been entrusted to the Office of the Commissioner for Children.
· The National Alcohol Policy 2018-2023: Whilst seeking to address the important issues of underage drinking as well as irresponsible and excessive drinking by adults, including young adults, this policy provides for various actions to address the supply and demand of alcohol. In this case, the law makes it illegal to sell or procure alcohol to minors. The Alcohol Policy stresses measures to enforce further legislation, and harsher penalties against sellers and distributors who are found guilty of contravening the law. This policy is seen as particularly safeguarding the rights of adolescents, which age is crucial for initiation and development of substance use.
· A Mental Health Strategy for Malta 2020-2030: This strategy gives particular attention to the wellbeing of young people.
Key initiatives to safeguard democracy and prevent radicalisation leading to violent extremism
Both the National Children’s Policy and the National Youth Policy put forward policy actions in this regard. For example, the National Children’s Policy sets out the following policy actions:
- Promote empowerment, inclusion and active involvement of children within society, whilst also generating awareness among children to be responsible citizens and to respect all members of society.
- Recognise and promote children as active citizens by engaging them in democratic processes, social participation, environmental activism and innovation, volunteering and social entrepreneurship.
- Ensure that the views presented by children through participation in forums and consultations are duly considered by policymakers.
- Ensure that views presented by children are taken into account through democratic participation by extending voting rights to young people aged 16 and over for all State, Local and European elections and referendums.
- Provide children with access to remedy if there has been a breach of their rights as provided by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and promote the funcions of the Office of the Commissioner for Children.
- Combat all forms of discrimination and intolerance primarily among groups that are at greater risk of marginalisation (e.g. children with mental health challenges and addictive behaviour or children living with persons experiencing such challenges or behaviour, children of imprisoned parents or children having imprisoned siblings, migrant children, children with a disability, children in care, LGBTIQ+ children and children from ethnic and religious minorities).
Malta considers the promotion of respect for human rights and overcoming intolerance, discrimination, racism and xenophobia as forming the basis of an integrated and multi-cultural society. In this regard, Malta has embarked on a series of policies which value inclusion, social cohesion, opportunities for all and active and responsible citizenship in order to foster respect for all and thus enhance skills for life.
Malta’s education system seeks to imbue values that respect diversity. This encompasses that an individual is unique and recognises individual differences whether these stem from dimensions of race; ethnicity; gender; sexual orientation; socio-economic status, age; physical, mental or intellectual abilities; religious beliefs; political beliefs; or other ideologies.
Some of the measures related to safeguarding democracy against and prevent radicalisation which lead to violent extremism include:
- The Ministry for Education and Employment is a member of the Radicalisation Awareness Network Malta (RAN –MT) which was formed in 2018. RAN-MT was setup in February 2018 as a multi-agency task force to monitor, prevent and act on any issue of radicalisation with in the country. No single service can provide the necessary holistic response that is needed. The objective of RAN-MT is to design a national response approach towards individuals, families and social needs of children. RAN-MT has the aim to work together with international agencies so as to learn, adapt and use existing RAN practices for the benefit of the country.
- Hate Crime/Speech Unit within the remit of the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security
- Malta is doing its utmost to continue fighting radicalisation and violent extremism through prevention. With this in mind, the Ministry for Home Affairs together with the Malta Police and the Office of the National Counter Terrorism Coordinator set up the Radicalisation Awareness Network Malta (RAN-Malta) with the aim of creating a common understanding of radicalisation at national level and establishing an all-government approach in countering radicalisation leading to terrorism and violent extremism. This Network brings together representatives from a number of entities across government who need to be aware of signs of radicalisation and violent extremism and who can collaborate with each other on this matter. Such entities include the education and youth sectors, among others, and they are receiving training on radicalisation and encouraged to attend relevant meetings and conferences abroad. The Network is meeting regularly and provides a forum for the exchange of information among the network members as well as the exchange of best practices and knowledge acquired. A Hate Crime/Speech Unit within the remit of the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security has been set up in October 2019. This is a multidisciplinary unit that is dedicated to supporting the victims of hate speech and hate crime but will serve also to impart the right message to the general public namely that hate crime and hate speech, and even more so that with intent to incite violence against another person or group, will not be tolerated. The launch of the Unit also constitutes a public awareness campaign in order to reach the victims of such crimes as well as to educate the public.
- Making Friends-Bringing Friends Clubs’
- The Migrant Learners’ Unit (MLU) within the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) organises “Making Friends Bringing Friends” clubs. These clubs are part of the LLAPSI+ (Language Learning and Parental Support for Integration) Project.
- The clubs target young migrant learners attending both mainstream classes as well as Induction Classes and Maltese students. The objective of the clubs is to encourage a process of inclusion between Maltese and newcomer learners. This is achieved through a process of socialisation outside school hours. Those applying for the clubs are provided with the opportunity to attend a total of ten sessions. Each session is of two-and-a-half hours. During the first hour, the participants are provided with an environmentally friendly multi-ethnic meal. Through this activity, awareness is raised about diversity in relation to different cooking styles. While the participants are enjoying this meal the participants are supervised by staff from the Foundation of Educational Services (FES). During the second part of each session, the applicants are provided with various learning experiences through a variety of fun-activities. The activities focus on encouraging those taking part to form friendships through active collaboration. The advantage that the Clubs have embedded in their approach is that they are not subject to the pressures that a school environment is usually exposed to, such as achieving pass marks in relation to the curricular subjects. The focus of the Clubs is exclusively on friendship and the benefits that friendships generate through a collaborative approach. An added advantage of the Club is that it helps to create multiplier effects in the sense that friendships/inclusion synergies between children also help adults to be more understanding towards each other. It will also help to widen the circle of friends that participants in the Clubs have since the Clubs could serve as an introduction to ‘friends-of-friends’. This philosophy is reflected in the title of the Clubs themselves – Bringing Friends Making Friends.
- Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD)
Personal, Social, Career Development (PSCD) is given paramount importance in the Maltese educational system, that promotes a human rights culture. Students develop skills and attitudes necessary for a complete integration of human rights. PSCD educators offer holistic learning that promotes the development of students’ intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic and creative potentials. PSCD also touches upon values clarification where students are given opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs and values and to confront them with others in a safe framework based on the dignity of every human being, freedom of thought and expression, and the respect for others' opinions.
With regard to knowledge and understanding, PSCD touches upon freedom, justice, equality, human dignity, non-discrimination, democracy, universality, rights, responsibilities, interdependence and solidarity; and that human rights provide a framework for negotiating and agreeing modes of behaviour in the family, at school, in the community, and in the wider world.
With regard to skills, PSCD promotes: active listening and communication: being able to listen to different points of view, to advocate one's own rights and those of other people; critical thinking: finding relevant information, appraising evidence critically, being aware of preconceptions and biases, recognising forms of manipulation, and making decisions on the basis of reasoned judgement; the ability to work co-operatively and to address conflict positively; the ability to participate in and organise social groups; the ability to recognise human rights violations;
With regard to attitudes and values, PSCD promotes: a sense of responsibility for one's own actions, a commitment to personal development and social change; curiosity, an open mind and an appreciation of diversity; empathy and solidarity with others and a commitment to support those whose human rights are under threat; a sense of human dignity, of self-worth and of others' worth, irrespective of social, cultural, linguistic or religious differences; a sense of justice, the desire to work towards the ideals of universal human rights, equality and respect for diversity.
During PSCD, students celebrate diversity. When organizing extra-curricular activities on a voluntary basis, PSCD educators take up issues related to intercultural and anti-racist education in order to develop an understanding between cultures and to build on the assertion that one lives in a multicultural and democratic society. One explores similarities and differences between cultures and peoples.
In PSCD, peace education is also given prominence, whereby awareness on domestic violence and bullying, including cyber-bullying, together with other forms of violence, are underlined.
- Supporting educators to deal with diversity
Malta also issued two major policies that address the key topic on supporting teachers – 1) Addressing Attendance in Schools Policy and 2) Managing Behaviour in Schools Policy which adopt a whole school approach philosophy. This approach is defined as a unified collective and collaborative action by educators, administrators, parents and students that have been strategically constituted to improve student learning behaviour and well-being.
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is offered to educators in schools in order to raise further sensitization and awareness issues such as social cohesion and anti-radicalization.
Schools as well as entities such as the Institute for Education and the Migrant Learners’ Unit (MLU) within the Ministry for Education and Employment are undertaking significant steps to provide high level Continuous Professional Development to improve the level of preparedness of the educational staff in tackling the need to safeguard democracy against and prevent radicalisation which lead to violent extremism and to ensure that the education system promotes a culture of dialogue and democratic values, creating a space for community building at the national level.
Furthermore active steps are being taken to adequately train individuals to deal with multi-cultural fora. The University of Malta offers its students a Master of Arts in Transcultural Counselling by the Faculty of Social Wellbeing in collaboration with the University of New Orleans. The mission of the M.A. in Transcultural Counselling is to train world counsellors who are able to serve diverse populations worldwide.
- Other measures:
The Ethical Education programme addresses topics including: promoting students’ critical and independent thinking; respect for and safeguarding the environment; promoting knowledge of citizens’ rights and responsibilities; developing students’ skills and competencies in conflict resolution; and developing healthy and respectful relationships.
The Ministry for Education and Employment provides an Anti-Bullying Service, which forms part of the ‘Safe Schools Programme’. Its aim is to ensure that schools are providing a safe and secure environment where students are able to develop and acquire social and academic capacities. Schools have also been supported to develop an ethos, which promotes pro-social behaviour and mutual respect. In line with the requirements of the ‘Addressing Bullying Behaviour in Schools policy’, schools have been expected to draft and implement tailor-made anti-bullying guidelines. The anti-bullying service has helped schools and the students’ councils in the drafting and implementation of such guidelines and to form part of the working committee of each school.
Initiatives such as clubs (e.g. Stop Hate clubs) that seek to empower young people and encourage them to actively participate in a school’s efforts to foster a positive school community, are outlined in the strategy document of the ‘Addressing Bullying Behaviour in Schools’ (Ministry for Education and Employment, 2014).
Moreover, Malta has been committed to provide high-quality education, which caters for all individuals in an equitable and inclusive manner. These policies and strategies include; The National Curriculum Framework for All (2012), the Framework for the Education Strategy 2014 - 2024 (2014) which is a comprehensive strategic framework that brings together and aligns all strategies, policies and plans under the Ministry from early childhood education and care to adult learning, from employment to research and innovation, and the Respect for All Framework (2014). Moreover, Malta has also set up the Education for All structures which through dialogue, works and supports all stakeholders within the educational setting to ensure high quality education for all learners where each and every one will learn to know, learn to do, learn to be and learn to live together.
The Trans, Gender Variant and Intersex Students in Schools Policy has also been developed in Malta were the Policy aims to: Foster a school environment that is inclusive, safe and free from harassment and discrimination for all members of the school community, students and adults, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or sex characteristics. It promotes the learning of human diversity that is inclusive of trans, gender variant and intersex students, thus promoting social awareness, acceptance and respect. It also ensures a school climate that is physically, emotionally and intellectually safe for all students to further their successful learning development and well-being, including that of trans, gender variant and intersex persons.
Additionally, Malta believes that the aftermath of the Holocaust and of subsequent genocides continues to raise challenging questions for individuals, communities and nations. Schools are encouraged to commemorate the Holocaust annually through a letter circular, which is issued to all schools. In the circular, there are web links that schools can access to obtain information and ideas for the commemoration.
In light of the above, Malta believes that priorities and concrete actions with regards to promoting common values, inclusive education, integration and acceptance at all levels of society is vital. The transmission of knowledge within the school environment may play a key role to contribute to bringing about further inclusivity and prevent social exclusion and marginalisation which leads to social inequalities, disengagement, unemployment and the emergence of radicalization.
Citizenship education has to be designed and implemented to be as effective as possible to all students by fundamentally building its framework on the foundations on which the EU is built. In Malta, citizenship education is being implemented through learning programmes on European Studies, Social Studies and Environmental Studies; students’ participation in the National and European Parliament debates; students’ participation in students’ councils; and students’ participation in Eco-School Committees.