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The representative body for English language schools has called on Government to reverse its decision to order them shut, warning of “irreparable” reputational damage, the loss of 2,000 jobs, and what it described as the “decimation of a 58-year-old industry”.

The sector, according to the Federation of Language Teaching Organisations, had worked tirelessly to ensure the controlled reopening was a success, but had now suffered 15,000 booking cancellations since the announcement on Friday, with a loss of €36 million in revenue.

Companies in the sector were now facing complete liquidation, with damage to Malta’s international reputation being “irreparable”.

In the strongly worded statement, FELTOM accused the Government of discrimination towards a sector which had followed all the guidelines and protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19 issued by health authorities.

One member of the organisation described the situation as “surreal”, pointing out that by the Government’s own admission, all schools had been labelled fully compliant with the pandemic measures.

“The only thing we are getting is a wait and see attitude,” the member said. “But at what cost? The more time passes, the more all this does not make sense.

“To make matters more confusing,” the member continued, “Malta has now just decided to start welcoming unvaccinated people, albeit with a 14-day quarantine period.

“Yet the country continues to discriminate against adult vaccinated English language learners who are not being allowed into their schools – those currently on the island, and those still due to arrive.”

The decision to close down English language schools, which was only made official through a brief legal notice published late on Tuesday, hours before taking effect, sent schools into “complete panic and disarray”, said FELTOM.

It stated that during a meeting with Government on Tuesday morning it outlined a list of suggestions to deal with the crisis.

These include:
• Ensuring that all staff and students are protected against further contamination and the spread of the virus throughout the student body and the rest of the community.
• Allowing for vaccinated adult students to continue to learn face-to-face without further postponement.
• Outlining a rescue package to protect the 2,000 jobs that depend on this industry in order to survive.

The industry group also said it wants to see how best to work with government “to turn what could be a reputational disaster into an image enhancer, for not only the sector but for our tourist industry and the island as a whole.”

Insisting that the jobs of the approximately 2,000 direct employees must take priority, FELTOM said it and its member organisations now continue to wait for the replies to the questions and the solutions put forward.

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