Sociologist from Malta

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The social exclusion of children – Michael Briguglio

The current news cycle is focusing on some negative experiences faced by politicians’ children. As is the case with almost everything else in Maltese politics, the issue is being interpreted through an ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach. Only that this time around, the binary is not divided between reds and blues.

Being a politician dad myself, I sympathize with other politician parents who may have experienced such unfortunate practices. It is only fair and just that children should be treated for what they are rather than being socially excluded because of their background. I would never justify behaviour which excludes children because their parents happen to be in politics, just as I would never justify having children excluded because of their parents’ skin colour, beliefs or other sources of identity.

At the same time, we should verify whether it is beneficial to raise kids’ profiles to media superstar status. Here I am not just referring to politicians’ children, but also to kids who hit the headlines of top TV shows, pop festivals, and the like. And by verification I am referring to proper evidence-based social scientific analysis.

In the meantime, the form of social exclusion which made to the current Maltese news cycle is bullying, and the Commissioner for Children made it clear that this can never be justified. I know the Commissioner, Pauline Miceli, to be a level-headed decent person, and if anything, her statement only confirms the opinion I have about her.

We must also keep in mind that there are other forms of social exclusion which many children are experiencing. Unfortunately, the voices of such children are quite invisible from the public sphere.

These include children who require the services of Learning Support Assistants but for whom state resources seem to be lacking; children who are excluded from public activities because of their disability; children who are deprived from public spaces where they can play safely; children of cultural minorities who don’t seem to ‘fit in’ and children whose parents’ income prohibits them from enjoying the most basic forms of social inclusion.

We can also mention children who are on long waiting lists for certain public health services and babies who are prohibited from being breastfed due to a lack of friendly environment at the work place.

Finally, we can also refer to the view that treats children as incomplete human beings, as blank sheets of paper waiting to be filled in. True, children need to be educated about the rights, responsibilities, values, norms and skills required in society. But children are also creative, imaginative human beings whose voices should be heard. Commendable activities such as children’s parliament should be mainstreamed and children should be consulted more on what they would like to see at school, in public spaces and in society in general. 

This article appeared in Malta Today, 19 August 2018

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