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Union wants to know why teachers are quitting classrooms

The teachers’ union has asked the education authorities for information on the outcome of interviews condu­cted with teachers who wish to resign, to understand what is leading to them leaving the profession.

Malta Union of Teachers’ president Marco Bonnici said the outcome of these exit interviews could shed light on why teachers were resigning.

He was commenting after a Grade 3 teacher, Shanice Scerri, posted a video on Instagram in which she listed the problems with the education system during a mock exit interview.

“The education system is failing teachers and there is a need for a strong reform,” she said, referring to the ever-increasing workload, low pay and emotional burnout in a profession that was no longer respected.

Exit interviews have been going on for three years and are held between an educator and the human resources department to discuss further.

In June, Education Minister Clifton Grima told parliament that 97 educators resigned over the past year: 55 from primary schools and 42 from secondary schools.

Bonnici said: “It was the MUT which insisted with employers to hold exit interviews. We are informed that a number of situations have been solved during these interviews and educators remained in the profession after making requests that could be entertained by the respective employer.

“Yet, the reasons provided by employees who decided to leave the teaching profession must be analysed, and certainly the same analysis needs to be made with the reason provided by this teacher who chose to make the rehearsal of the exit interview public.”

Educational reform needed

Shanice Scerri is known for her popular Instagram page ‘My Life with Pixiedust’ dedicated to the magic of Disney. Over the years she shared posts that included her students. In one post she asked them to help choose her wedding dress and even invited them to her wedding.

Scerri recently posted an emotional video in which she spoke about her heartbreak after she resigned from her post as a teacher. This was followed by another post in which she shared her mock exit interview.

In the interview she spoke about how she always dreamed of becoming a teacher and had been teaching Grade 3 students for six years.

She explains how she started off as a very motivated teacher, but this started fading over the years as her mental health was impacted.

“I’d return home after a day at work filled with anxiety… worrying for the children and their problems,” she said.

Over the years, the social problems increased. She had children turn up without lunch, children going to school upset over something that happened at home. She was even hit in the shoulder by one student.

“I have to face all this before my teaching day even starts,” she said.

Apart from that, there was an always-increasing workload that forced teachers to take work home which meant less time with loved ones. Free time at school, previously used to plan creative activities, was sucked away by paperwork.

Then there were the little things that added up such as: spending her own money to decorate the class when items, including students’ books placed under their desks, were damaged by students who attended Klabb 3-16 held in the same classroom after school hours.

She said there were too many students per class with a range of mixed abilities.

“I had one student who was reading Harry Potter alone while another student couldn’t spell her name – in the same class,” she said.

Scerri has a post-graduate degree in ethics and had been applying to become an ethics teacher but kept being told they could not afford to lose her from the classroom.

All this, she said, was not reflected in the salary.

“I cried a lot to decide to leave. I love the children and my job… We are being ignored and this is why teachers are leaving,” she said.

A 2020 study found that between 2008 and 2018, the number of teachers who resigned from their post spiked by 199 per cent, going from 26 to 57 during the span of a decade. 

The same study also found that the number of students registering for courses in education at the University of Malta declined by 20 per cent, from 334 in 2017 to 268 in 2019.