Article 13(2) of the Refugees Act states that asylum seekers shall have access to state-funded education and training. This general statement is complemented by the Reception Regulations, wherein asylum-seeking children are entitled to access the education system in the same manner as Maltese nationals, and this may only be postponed for up to 3 months from the date of submission of the asylum application. This 3-month period may be extended to 1 year “where specific education is provided in order to facilitate access to the education system”.1 Primary and secondary education is offered to asylum seekers up to the age of 15-16, as this is also the cut-off date for Maltese students. Access to state schools is free of charge. These rules apply for primary and secondary education.
The practical difficulties faced by asylum seeking children relate to the absence of a formal assessment process to determine the most appropriate entry level for children; the absence of preparatory classes; limited or no educational background; language difficulties.
The location of centres might be problematic as the transport provided by the schools (public or private) is not free of charge. In practice, children do attend school. Children with particular needs are treated in the same manner as Maltese children with particular needs, whereby a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) may be appointed to provide individual attention to the child. Yet it is noted that in the situation of migrant or refugee children, language issues are not appropriately provided for, with possible implications on the child’s long-term development.2
Adults and young asylum seekers are eligible to apply to be exempted from fees at state educational institutions, including the University of Malta, vocational training courses, languages lessons and other adult education. Vocational training courses offered by the Employment and Training Corporation are also accessible to asylum seekers.
Beneficiaries of protection are increasingly making use of these educational services, primarily since information on their availability is becoming available to the various communities through NGO activities and also increased openness by the relevant governmental authorities.
English lessons are provided by AWAS at the Marsa Open Centre. Residents from other centres are allowed to attend these classes. Some NGOs also organise lessons in English and/or Maltese.