Much has been said about the statements of Mr. Charles Caruana Carabez, Commissioner for Education, as reported in the Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2018. These statements were widely condemned by several NGOs and institutions, held as ‘careless and misinformed’.
We found ourselves perplexed, reading about “a couple of foreign nationalities standing out for misbehaviour”. We were thus far unaware that bullying behaviour had a nationality. Notwithstanding, we assumed the Commissioner was basing his strong statements on a careful analysis of the situation. Thus, on the 3rd of July 2019, we wrote to him requesting that his office share their research and statistics with us. Information is always precious. Regrettably, the Commissioner advised that no documentary information could be released. A meeting was proposed, but following bBrave’s insistence to advise of the purpose of the meeting, no information was forthcoming.
bBrave appreciates that certain data is sensitive, and not for public consumption. However, our call was turned down even after we requested that statistics and anonymised data be shared with us. At one stage, we were referred to contact the Psycho-Social Services Unit within the Ministry for Education and Employment. Our question on why we were being redirected to this Unit – when our question was related to the Commissioner’s work – remains unanswered since the 17th July 2019.
As Malta’s only NGO focusing on anti-bullying, it is our duty to take a position on such strong statements made by none other than the Commissioner for Education. We waited so long to receive some justifications to this position; we chased, we insisted, but virtually received nothing of value.
We, therefore, cannot but conclude, that unless evidence is brought to the contrary, the views held by the Commissioner are to be condemned. Bullying has neither nationality nor citizenship. Bullying has neither shape, size nor colour. Bullying can be found wherever there are human relations, between young and old, big and small, in physical or in cyberspace.
The suggestion to segregate foreign students from Maltese students, isolating them into a ‘foreigners only’ school, is archaic and discriminatory and is to be rebuked. Moreover, it appears to be out of sync with the direction the nation is taking, having regard for the large proportion of non-Maltese residents. After school, foreign students mingle with the rest of the community – they do not ride ‘foreigners only’ buses to go to ‘foreigners only’ villages. Truly, the Commissioner’s recommendation breaches the European values of equality and diversity.
When this suggestion hails from the Commissioner for Education, we cannot but be preoccupied.
The only adversary we should all face, collectively, is bullying behaviour. Wherever it may hail from. Let us not lose focus.
bBrave chooses to avoid using the words ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ as bullying cases may be very complex. An individual may very well fall into both categories, and labelling individuals with these categories tend to negatively affect the lives of these people.
bBrave is the first anti-bullying NGO in Malta. Its mission is to raise awareness on the different forms of bullying, to facilitate assistance for individuals suffering from bullying and for the reform of individuals displaying bullying behaviour in Malta.
The Organisation is registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (VO 1422), the Registrar for Legal Persons (LPA-118), and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ (AZ 252/2017). bBrave is also a Core Member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), the international coalition of organisations and individuals that are united against bullying.