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NEWS | Sunday, 15 June 2008

Grand Harbour region tops list of skivers

Towns around the Grand Harbour register the highest rates of school absenteeism – Gozo the lowest by far. JAMES DEBONO on the educational north-south divide

If there were such a thing as a national school assembly roll-call, it would probably sound like this: Mellieha? Present. Mosta? Present. Gozo? Present. Valletta? Absent. Marsa? Absent. Bormla? Absent. Zabbar? Absent. Floriana? Absent...
This at least is the picture that emerges from official statistics on school absenteeism, which once again reveal a north-south educational divide: 59.2% of absent pupils hail from the combined southern regions, 32.1% from the north and only 6.6% from the west.
The Grand Harbour region alone accounts for 30% of all cases of unauthorised absences from government schools, despite representing only 8% of the total Maltese population.
This is the latest in a series of damning social statistics which highlight the social problems facing a region earmarked for major infrastructural and tourist development.
The same geographical region is also home to 20% of the prison population, while only 2.5% of Maltese university students hail from these towns.
Bormla and Valletta now emerge as the localities with the highest number of unauthorised school absences in Malta. In the past scholastic year a total of 152 cases of absenteeism were reported in Bormla. Valletta trailed closely with 131 cases, and Birkirkara, with a population three times the size of either Bormla or Valletta, had a total of 115 cases of absenteeism over the same time period.
There were 48 cases of school absenteeism reported in Isla: more than the total number of absent schoolchildren in Gozo, where the population is eight times larger.
At the other end of the spectrum, Gozo once again confirms its reputation for high educational standards. Only 33 cases of unauthorised school absences were reported on the sister island last year. These amount to only 2% of the total number of school absences.
In addition, four of the top 10 localities with the highest percentage of university students also hail from Gozo.
These statistics were revealed by education minister Dolores Cristina in reply to a parliamentary question by Labour MP Anthony Agius Decelis.

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