Eco-schools programme: seeding the future

The environmental education of our younger generation is the most rewarding investment and the eco-schools programme run by local environmental NGO Nature Trust, is one such fruitful investment.

In Malta, the eco-schools programme has been in existence for some 17 years. As a result, 76 Maltese schools are flying a Green Flag – a symbol of environmental awareness and commitment. This is an investment in our country’s future that will yield so much in the years to come.

Introducing this year’s ceremony, during which a number of schools were awarded a Green Flag for their environmental achievements, Nature Executive President Vincent Attard emphasised the fact that “The Eco-Schools programme is instrumental at providing students with tools to think about environmental issues and come to conclusions and solutions. This can be witnessed that, today, it is the younger generations that are questioning the actions of the country’s leaders and putting pressure on them. This awareness is growing each year and the sooner leaders take heed of these calls, the faster we will start mitigating not only environmentally but also socially and economically. Quoting the children themselves in the last EkoSkola parliament – We want to be heard not just liked.”

Eco-School is a global programme currently engaging 19.5 million young people across 67 countries. For nearly 25 years Eco-Schools have been empowering young people to improve their environmental awareness and, in so doing, receive the international Eco-Schools Green Flag award.

The Eco-School programme develops the skills of our younger generation, raises environmental awareness, improves the school environment and creates a whole host of other benefits not just for our educational institutions but, moreover, for our community at large.

The eco-school seven steps educational process targets a change of lifestyle and the guidelines available on implementing these seven steps is very informative.

The first basic step is to set up a participative democracy in our schools through which all stakeholders are actively involved, with the students taking a democratic lead. Assisted by educators, students interact with the different stakeholders and, in so doing, identify the environmental issues that need to be addressed in their own little world and beyond. They are then trained to think, discuss and ultimately arrive at conclusions and results.

Reading through the list of initiatives taken in our schools as a result of the Eco-School Programme is quite impressive. The programme has identified issues relating to water, waste, recycling, energy efficiency and climate change, heritage appreciation, and many more. The lessons learnt first-hand by our students are then taken from the school to their homes, their families and society in general.

Environmental education is about much more than a respect for nature. Nature is not something separate, isolated and compartmentalised during excursions: it also features in our way of life.

As a result of the environmental education which the eco-schools programme provides for our students, our younger generation is being equipped with the knowledge and awareness that environmental damage can be reversed. They are learning that they can be active agents of the change we so desperately require in halting – and eventually reversing – the accumulated environmental damage.

These are indeed the seeds of a bright future.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3rd November 2019

Mat-tfal, Sant’ Anton, għand il-President tar-Repubblika


Nhar il-Ġimgħa 18 ta’ Jannar, flimkien ma 12-il kandidat ieħor għall-Parlament Ewropew, ħadt sehem f’laqgħa ma numru ta’ tfal u żgħażagħ organizzata mill-Fondazzjoni tal-President.

It-tfal ippreżentawlna u ddiskutew magħna dokument bil-ħsibijiet tagħhom fuq diversi suġġetti.

Kellmuna dwar l-immigrazzjoni u emfasizzaw il-ħtieġa li jkunu mħarsa l-immigranti mill-għarqa. L-argumenti dwar x’għandu jsir għandhom jiġu wara li tittieħed azzjoni. (act first, discuss after) Kellmuna ukoll dwar l-iżvilupp bla rażan li għaddej madwarna, dwar is-siġar li qed jinqerdu, dwar il-plastik li jintuża darba u jintrema, dwar il-ħtieġa li jonqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq tagħna, dwar l-enerġija mix-xemx u dwar il-ħarsien tal-annimali.

It-tfal u ż-żgħażagħ kellmuna ukoll dwar bosta temi soċjali: dwar il-vjolenza u l-bullying, is-saħħa, l-edukazzjoni, l-ugwaljanza, l-faqar u l-esklużjoni soċjali.

It-tfal tkellmu b’konvinzjoni u kienu jidhru li ilhom jiddiskutu bejniethom.

Tkellmu ukoll dwar il-politika u dwar iż-żgħażagħ li kienu ser jivvutaw l-ewwel darba mas-16-il sena. Emfasizzaw kemm kien meħtieġ li minn kmieni l-edukazzjoni li jirċievu tgħinhom jerfgħu ir-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom ta’ ċittadini.

Impressjonawna mhux biss biċ-ċarezza tal-ħsieb tagħhom imma iktar bil-kapaċità li wrew li jippreżentaw kritika kostruttiva dwar dak li qed josservaw jiġri madwarhom.

Dan kien eżerċizzju tajjeb mill-Fondazzjoni tal-President. It-tfal ukoll għandhom jiddiskutu l-politika, għax din għandha tkun għas-servizz tagħhom ukoll.

After Wednesday’s earthquake: civil defence



On Wednesday an earthquake of 4.4 magnitude on the Richter scale was reported in the Maltese islands. As far as we are aware no damage was caused, yet it would be appropriate to consider a number of relevant issues.

Are we prepared for the consequences of a much stronger earthquake which would cause considerable damage including the potential death of a substantial number of persons?

Around two years ago, the Civil Protection Department (CPD) in conjunction with the Sicilian counterparts carried out an earthquake simulation exercise in Gozo which, undoubtedly, provided CPD personnel with valuable experience. It is not known if the department has been involved in any subsequent exercises, either locally or abroad, nor is it known if any specific operational changes were implemented by the CPD as a result of the lessons learned in the 2015 exercise.

It is, however, pertinent to point out that it is not only the CPD, the Police, the AFM and the Health Authorities that need adequate and continuous training to cope with the aftermath of a strong earthquake in the Maltese Islands. In addition to the operators of the different sectors of the infrastructure (energy, water, transport) the civilian population should also receive training for this unlikely eventuality.

Simulation exercises involving the civilian population are necessary as they would develop at local level an ability to manage a disaster. We need to start from scratch in building up a civil defence corps worthy of the name, coordinated and trained by the CPD but based in each locality in Malta and Gozo.

It is a responsibility which, together with adequate resources, should be assigned to local councils under the watchful eye of the CPD.

This would be the appropriate way to build up an adequate general level of preparedness for disaster management. The involvement of the local councils would also ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable members of our communities are addressed. Specific protocols need to be developed and tested in conjunction with local councils regarding the assistance required by children and those who are bedridden or disabled. Catering for all disabilities is an indispensible prerequisite and this requires trained personnel to which the CPD currently has little if any access. It is an easily identifiable deficiency that needs to be addressed forthwith.

Those in charge of disaster management in time of need require the ability to communicate with people having impaired hearing. Is anyone at the CPD, the Police, the AFM or the Health Authorities able to communicate in sign language? Addressing this communication deficiency on the part of the authorities is required not just to ensure that Malta is adequately prepared for disaster management, it is also an everyday deficiency that every authority in Malta that offers a direct service to the population at large needs to address. With around 500 known Maltese with impaired hearing and a number of others who could have remained below the radar, this is an issue that is manageable primarily at local level.

The CPD is one of the youngest departments and to date it has given sterling service in fire-fighting, managing pollution and providing assistance required as a result of flooding after heavy storms. We look forward to the next step in its development: ensuring that training in disaster management is an integral part of the services of local authorities.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 27 August 2017

Next Thursday’s earthquake



This will be a simulation exercise coordinated by Malta’s Civil Protection Department at 4pm next Thursday in Gozo and three hundred people will be involved.

It will be carried out with EU assistance and in conjunction with the Civil Protection Authorities in Sicily who are partners with the Maltese Civil Protection Department (CPD) in establishing a network within the region that is able to manage seismological disasters.

This exercise signals the coming of age of Malta’s CPD. It has to date delivered sterling service in the areas of fire-fighting, managing pollution and providing assistance required as a result of flooding after heavy storms. Training its staff, and subjecting them to a gruelling simulation exercise, is a gigantic step forward for the CPD. It is the first step of a long journey that is dependent on the dedication of the CPD staff  – which is unlimited – as well as the resources allocated by the state. Such resources, although limited over the years, seem to be slowly trickling down, for a change.

Developing the CPD’s ability to handle disasters will be a major challenge. For a start it will identify its capability to develop effective coordination with the Police Force, with the AFM (Armed Forces) and the health authorities as well as with local councils.

At the end of the day the CPD’s proficiency in disaster management will be measured in terms of its response time as well as the number of lives it saves in such situations. This will generally depend on the severity of the disaster with which it is faced.

This will not only translate into a general level of preparedness. It will also require focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities and in this respect the role of local councils is indispensable. Specific protocols need to be developed and tested in conjunction with local councils regarding the assistance required by children and those who are bedridded or disabled. Catering for all disabilities is an indispensible prerequisite and it requires trained personnel to which the CPD currently has no access. It is an easily identifiable deficiency which needs to be addressed forthwith.

One small example would suffice: how would the CPD personnel, the police, the AFM – or the health authorities for that matter – communicate with persons with  impaired hearing in the absence of staff able to communicate in sign language? Addressing this deficiency is required not just to ensure that Malta is adequately prepared for disaster management. It is also an everyday deficiency that every authority in Malta that offers a direct service to the population at large needs to address. With around five hundred known Maltese with impaired hearing and a number of others who may have remained below the radar, this is an issue which is manageable primarily at a local level. Yet to date it has not been adequately prioritised.

In this context, one would also need to query the level of preparedness of institutions such as Mount Carmel Hospital and id-Dar tal-Providenza. I am informed that even when it comes to fire drills in residential homes for the elderly, the results were not impressive, to put it mildly.

Prompt and effective coordination between the different authorities is crucial in ensuring disaster management. There is a need to test how the different types of equipment used by the CPD, the Police and the AFM interact. Are they compatible? The planned simulation exercise is an opportunity to identify whether, in an actual practice run, matters will work out as planned. Lessons learned in this area will have to be translated into better procurement procedures in the future to ensure smooth interaction between the CPD, the police and the Army.

This will translate into compatible communication equipment as well as adequately maintained vehicles, sea craft and aeroplanes/helicopters which can be used in difficult circumstances. Knowing that maintenance of equipment has never been our forte, this could be quite a challenge!

The simulation exercise on Gozo on 3 September will necessarily lead to a number of lessons learnt which will have to be acted upon in order that Malta’s capability in disaster management is enhanced. This is definitely a bold step in the right direction.

I look forward to the next steps which require the involvement of local authorities.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 30 August 2015

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (5)


Il-kobba tkompli titħabbel : l-effett fuq it-tfal.

Il-kobba kompliet titħabbel. Issa kulħadd qed taħarqu qalbu għat-tfal. Qed jgħidulna li l-iktar li ser ibagħtu huma t-tfal jekk ser jiġi introdott id-divorzju.

Ħa naraw ftit x’inhu propost.

Ir-referendum qed jipproponi li jkun introdott divorzju f’kaz ta’ koppji li jkunu ilhom separati ta’ l-inqas 4 snin u li dwarhom medjazzjoni ma tkunx tat riżultat posittiv.

Id-divorzju, kif propost, hu applikabbli biss jekk ikun hemm separazzjoni li tkun ilha 4 snin (ta’ l-inqas). It-tbatija tal-ulied fil-konfront ta’ nuqqas ta’ familja stabbli għaldaqstant m’hiex ser tibda bid-divorzju. Ser tkun ilha li bdiet.  U la l-medjazzjoni ma tkunx tat riżultat il-bieb għal rimedju għat-tbatija tal-uliedu u l-ġenituri ikun ilu magħluq żmien.  

Is-soluzzjonijiet possibli għal din it-tbatija huma diversi. Waħda mis-soluzzjonijiet hi d-divorzju għax tista’ twassal għall-ħolqien ta’ familja ġdida li tnaqqas din it-tbatija. Tista’ tnaqqasha ftit imma tista’ tnaqqasha ħafna ukoll. Jiddependi miċ-ċirkustanzi partikolari ta’ kull każ, li kif nafu l-ebda wieħed m’hu bħall-ieħor.

Min ma jaqbilx mad-divorzju minħabba t-tbatija tat-tfal għandu jkun onest u jgħid li jekk każ jieqaf mas-separazzjoni (jiġifieri l-koppja tibqa’ separata) t-tbatija tat-tfal mhiex ser tkun inqas.

Jekk xi waħda mill-partjiet tikseb annullament jew tiddeċiedi li tikkoabita t-tbatija xorta tibqa’ hemm.

Mela ejja jkollna diskussjoni iktar onesta u ngħidu l-fatti kif inhuma. Li d-disintegrazzjoni ta’ familja ser iġġib it-tbatija fuq kull wieħed mill-membri tagħha. U m’hemmx differenza jekk din insejħulhiex separazzjoni, annullament, koabitazzjoni jew divorzju. M’humiex l-istess : imma l-effetti ta’ tbatija li joħolqu fuq il-membri tal-familja huma kważi xorta.

Fl-opinjoni tiegħi l-issue hi waħda: iż-żwieġ hu rabta għal dejjem, jew hemm xi ċirkustanzi li jippermettu li dan jinħall?

L-introduzzjoni ta’ liġi tad-divorzju f’Malta tippermetti lil kull wieħed u waħda minnha li jieħu d-deċizjoni tiegħu jew tagħha u dan minflok ma jkun meħtieġ li issiefer inkella tbaxxi rasek għad-deċiżjoni li jieħu għalik l-istat.

Għalhekk il-vot IVA. Biex kull wieħed u kull waħda minna niddeċiedu aħna u mhux jiddeċiedi għalina ħaddieħor.

ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (1) : Il-mandat.

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (2) : Referendum; meta ?

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (3) : Bejn kalkoli u realta’

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (4) : Il-Partit Progressiv fejn hu ?

Politika dwar id-divorzju tal-Partit Laburista Malti.

The politics of divorce