Claudine Cassar | Sunday, 13 September 2009
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Make life easier for working parents

This week the Foundation for Education Services launched Klabb 3-16, a service that will help working parents bridge the two to three hours between the end of the school day and the end of the full-time working day.
Children (presumably between the ages of three and 16, judging by the name of the programme) who attend schools that offer this service will be able to stay on after school, in a safe monitored environment. They will do their homework and participate in a number of extracurricular activities.
The service will also extend to school holidays in order to provide parents with a safe place to leave their children when their kids are on holiday and they cannot take vacation leave to be with them.
This is an excellent initiative, and one that is sorely needed by many parents – particularly working mothers, who often can only get a part-time job because they have nobody to collect their kids from school when it ends.
We often hear that the government needs to introduce measures to help the family, and in my opinion, this is a big step in the right direction. It will reduce stress on both parents, because they will have their mind at rest that their kids are in a safe and caring environment while they finish their work for the day. It will also reduce the financial pressure on them, because two full time salaries are better than one and a half.
My hope is that now that this scheme has been launched, it will continue to grow. Obviously the first step will be to extend it to all schools on the island, since at the moment it will only be available in Birkirkara, Fgura and Naxxar. Hopefully Church schools and private schools will also get on board, since their students have working parents too. Just as important, however, is extending the scope of what children do while attending Klabb 3-16.
One idea would be to strike a deal with the Society of Christian Doctrine (M.U.S.E.U.M.). Children between the ages of six and 13 have to attend these doctrine classes twice a week if they want to receive Holy Communion and Confirmation. Lessons are held in all localities at different times of the day. Unfortunately they often clash with office hours (for example my daughter attends lessons from 4:30 to 5:15) and even if they do not, what parent (and child!) wants to get home at 5:30 or 6:00, only to rush out half an hour later to go to doctrine! Offering doctrine classes during Klabb 3-16 would solve this problem. It would also have the added benefit of increasing the time that the family can spend together once they finally make it home at the end of the day.
Another possibility would be to rent out rooms to third parties such as drama schools, music teachers, ballet teachers, sports organisations and the like – who would then offer lessons against payment. Most parents I know would love to have their children involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities, but are unable to organise it because once their working day is done they are too busy with their chores. Having such activities available onsite during Klabb 3-16 would be a godsend for mums and dads everywhere!
In addition to such fun activities, it would also make sense to offer remedial classes for those students who need added support in some subjects. We all know that in Malta children are often ferried from one set of private lessons to the next. Well, what better place for them to get the added help they need than in the school environment? The additional lessons could be personalised and would be planned to reinforce the curriculum and the material covered that week in class.
As a working mother, I truly hope that someone from FES will read this article and that it will spark off many more ideas. Implementing even just a few of these would go a long way to reduce the burden on our families. In these stressful times that is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.
My hope is that this will be the beginning of a revolution in the way schools organise their activities. The time has come for these institutions to adapt to a new reality – one where both parents are involved in their child’s education, and where both the mums and the dads work.
I currently have two daughters in school and over the years I have realised that working parents are a pretty misunderstood lot. Take parents’ day, for example. I remember my parents attending this event together in the evening – nowadays, however, it is organised in the morning instead of classes and if the parents work, they have to take leave to attend.
In addition to parent/teacher meetings, the modern parent also has to contend with a variety of seminars and activities organised by the school. My daughters’ school, for example, arranged for a literacy expert to give a series of 10 lectures on how to teach young children to read and write. The lectures sounded interesting and I wanted to attend, but unfortunately they were held in the morning. Attending them meant missing 10 days of work, which was impossible for me. I am sure that I was not the only parent who would have liked to attend but could not do so. Organising the lectures in the evening would have made it possible for many more mothers and fathers to be there.
In fact I want to make a point here – it is not only mothers who work, fathers work too. By organising the great majority of meetings, seminars and parent activities during working hours, schools are making it hard for both parents, not just mothers. Our children deserve to have both their mother and their father involved in their school life, and the time has come for our educational establishments to make it possible for them to do so.


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