Child cancer patients left without teacher in ward

Children hospitalized for cancer have been without a teacher for more than a year and a half, and their calls for online learning have also been ignored.

A teacher who used to teach at Mater Dei’s Rainbow Ward was removed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and sent to an elementary school due to a teacher shortage, the vice president of the Puttinu Cares Foundation said.

Angele Cuschieri, also the department’s chief nurse, said the young cancer patients were treated differently from their peers.

“Other kids went back to their classrooms while we were teacherless in the Rainbow Ward and online classes were suspended,” she said.

Some children in the cancer care unit, who are unable to attend school due to long-term illness, were temporarily able to take online classes with their classmates when distance learning was introduced.

Rebecca Zammit Lupi, who died of cancer earlier this year at age 15, had described feeling “just that little bit more normal” when she entered her virtual classroom from her hospital bed in the ward.

She was one of the young cancer patients who joined their support group to call for online education to continue for those receiving treatment, even as schools returned.

Her appeal was backed by President George Vella.

An ‘adolescents’ room’ in the Rainbow Ward, where children miss out on education. Photo: DOI

Puttinu Cares Foundation and a number of parents then wrote to then Education Secretary Owen Bonnici to preserve distance learning, proposing that laptops and cameras be placed on empty school desks to transfer lessons directly from classrooms to wards. streaming, which also benefits patients who have to go abroad for treatment.

But the Department of Education has not yet answered questions about whether it will reintroduce online learning or provide a teacher in the pediatric and adolescent oncology department.

Cuschieri acknowledged that there were logistical problems for teachers in the department, who are unable to work during normal school hours due to the young patients undergoing chemotherapy or other treatment.

She said online education was not the foundation’s preferred option and added that nurses should not be given the responsibility of connecting patients to online classrooms.

However, she said she witnessed firsthand the impact distance learning had on the children, who needed routine, had something to look forward to and no longer felt isolated during treatment.

It had boosted their morale and even helped their recovery, she insisted.

Before losing her battle with cancer last January, Rebecca, aka Becs, had said that she not only missed her friends but also studied and learned because of her long absence from school.

According to the Pediatric Cancer Patient Support Group, one of the first and biggest concerns parents face when their children are hospitalized for long periods is their stalled education.

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