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Pauline Miceli critcises political parties for using children and youth as ‘tokens’ in election campaigns, warns that Maltese children not being taught how to develop their own arguments

Children’s Commissioner Pauline Miceli (Photo:Ray Attard)

The use of children to urge people to donate money to the annual l-Istrina charity campaign is “pathetic” and nothing short of manipulation, the new Commissioner for Children has claimed.

“Children should not be used as a tool to tug at people’s heartstrings so as to convince them to donate money,” Pauline Miceli said during an interview on radio show Ghandi Xi Nghid. “Children with illnesses have a right to every sort of treatment, but they shouldn’t be rendered into mere objects of pity. It undignifies them, and I personally wouldn’t want to expose my child to that experience.”

Miceli, formerly head of the Naxxar Higher Secondary School, also had harsh words for political parties who use children and youth in their election campaigns.

“Political parties should not get to use children as tokens to show off how much they care about future generations,” she told host Andrew Azzopardi. “Moreover, children sometimes change their political affiliations as they grow up. Associating their faces with a political party risks exposing them to future embarrassment and harm.”

She added that she plans to present guidelines to the political parties on how to minimize the “negative use” of children in election campaigns.

However, she said that children must be encouraged to discuss and argue about political issues, warning that a failure to do so risks the emergence of a self-interested political class.

“We are already starting to see the effects – young politicians without a social drive who are only interested in earning money and advancing their own careers.”

Miceli warned that a recent ‘youth ambassador’ initiative – through which youth were appointed to sit in for local council meetings – had failed to kick off due to a lack of interest.

“School has become more and more competitive and pressure on children is piling up; their homework load is growing and private lessons are becoming more and more popular. Maltese society is already far too competitive as it is, with most people preparing to go it alone than work as part of a team.

“However, children should be taught from an early age about their social responsibilities.”

She also claimed that Maltese children are being taught to simply follow rules unquestionably, rather than to develop their own arguments.
“During my time at Higher Secondary, we had organised several projects with foreign schools, and the difference between our children and theirs was sometimes striking. While the foreign children were not always as academically qualified as ours, they were capable of presenting arguments in a way ours couldn’t.”

‘Alternatives to Paceville required’

Miceli called for the creation of new recreation zones for youth to serve as an alternative to Paceville.

“Such zones must be free of cost and mustn’t be overly organised or restrictive,” she said. “Many youth don’t want to go to youth centres, but simply to go out with their friends.”

She warned of a “common phenomenon” whereby young parents go out at night, leaving their children free to roam around Paceville as they please.

“I often hear stories of parents driving their children out late at night and then picking them up even late. This is a worrying phenomenon that must be addressed.”

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