Malta’s Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations (FELTOM), has welcomed a recent adjustment to the Government order forcing them to close, which it is informed should facilitate the reopening of schools operating for fully vaccinated students.
Under the amendment to Legal Notice LN 314 of 2021, which closed all language schools in the wake of rising COVID case numbers amongst attendees, exceptions and special permissions will be granted to schools by the health authorities.
This was facilitated through the addition of the following lines to the notice:
“Provided that the Superintendent of Public Health may, through the issuance of standards, provide for exemptions from the provisions of this order wherever such exemptions are deemed necessary or essential”.
Following discussions with authorities, FELTOM has been told that these amendments will allow schools to reopen for vaccinated students.
In the statement, issued on Tuesday, the federation insisted it has always stood up for the various serious operators in the sector, which was crippled by the sudden decision to close classrooms after the spike in cases “attributed to some of our ELT students”.
Arguing that only “a small percentage” of young foreigners (aged under 24) visiting Malta do so to learn English, the organisation characterised the closure of schools to vaccinated students, “who have every right to visit Malta” as “discriminatory”, and said the move “will further damage the sector financially and reputationally”.
Addressing speculation surrounding the enforcement of COVID regulations amongst the schools and their students, the federation reiterated its “unequivocal position and support” to address these concerns, some of which, it said, were also raised by itself.
“The industry has suffered because of lack of enforcement with certain operators in the sector”, it added.
Returning to the change in the Legal Notice, FELTOM described it as “the first step towards the industry to return to normality and is welcomed as long as the schools are able to welcome all vaccinated students to reduce the damages caused after the sudden closure of our sector”.
Malta’s once-booming English language teaching sector was hit especially hard during the COVID pandemic and then again as restrictions were lifted.
The lack of tourist arrivals to the country during the pandemic, as well as the uncertainty surrounding the long-term prospects for international travel pushed it towards decimation and their closure in early July, as COVID once again took hold heaped yet more pressure on the industry.
According to a FELTOM statement subsequently to the closure, the closure of the schools risked 2,000 jobs and saw 15,000 booking cancellations in the five days following the announcement – costing them €36 million in revenue.
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The Government hopes that these sectors will make up 1% of Malta’s GDP by 2028