MGRM children’s books may go to teachers

Controversial children’s books donated to the government by the gay lobby could be handed out to teachers and councillors, according to the Education Ministry.

The books, which depict non-binary families, were thrust into the national spotlight last week after Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said the books would not be distributed to children in view of concerns raised by parents.

A ministry spokesman, however, told the Times of Malta the books could still make their way into schools. “The only possible consideration is that these are provided to technical personnel [teachers and councillors],” he said.

Around 100 copies of 14 publications were donated to the ministry by the Malta Gay Rights Movement last July. The books include three publications on transgender children and three more about coming out as well as audiovisual material for teachers.

The spokesman said the books were being assessed before any decisions could be taken. “As with all material that the Education Ministry receives, these will be reviewed in due course by the relevant technical people, including the education officers [responsible for setting curriculum],” he said.

MGRM head Gabi Calleja said handing out the books to students was never really on the cards anyway.

“We are not worried about the books being reviewed since we are confident that there is nothing harmful or inappropriate about the resources donated and that they will be found to be a useful resource,” she said.

The number of books donated, Ms Calleja added, was small compared to the number of students and classes.

“We are quite happy for the books to be made available to educators and student services professionals,” she said.

She added it was the organisation’s understanding that Malta’s sexuality and relationship education policy, curriculum and syllabus were based on recognised best practice. “We are in agreement with the minister that parents need not be concerned,” Ms Calleja said.

Mr Bartolo initially said the government was in favour of the books measure as it was in line with its “education for all principle”. The announcement, however, ruffled feathers among some parents, who felt that the State was imposing certain values and beliefs on their children. Eventually, these joined forces and created a Facebook group called ‘Parents and teachers against gender indoctrination of our children in schools’.

Mr Bartolo had defended the decision saying the aim was “not to turn children gay or lesbian but to eradicate stereotypes and prejudices against them”.

Pro-life campaigner Paul Vincenti said this appeared to be a “move back to square one”. Speaking as a parent, Mr Vincenti said handing the books out to teachers had been the plan all along.

“As far as I know, this was what they were doing from the get go, so it’s starting to get quite confusing,” he said.

Mr Vincenti said he had spoken to a number of teachers who he said were being pressured into accepting the books for fear of being labelled homophobes.