Thursday, 25 September 2008

Gozitan University students in Malta

We met the Gozitan University Student group (ĠUĠ). It was one of the most honest meetings I attended to in these recent days.

It was a nice meeting, but at the same time I felt saddened. I said to myself that nearly fifteen years have passed and yet the Gozitan students are still being treated like rubbish, same as it was in my times. It is difficult to understand the suffering if you do not experience it.

However, it was nice to listen to the Gozitan students voicing their opinion. In our days, these opportunities did not exist.

They wanted to meet Alternattiva Demokratika and I hope that they found an ear which can truly listen to them. Apart from Arnold Cassola, Andre Vella, a representative of Alternattiva Demokratika Youths (ADZ), was also present. Michael Bajada from Munxar came representing the Gozo Regional Committee.

Everyone should be aware of the Gozitan students’ sacrifices; day by day they cross over to Malta in the early hours of the morning to study, or they spend the week in some apartment and they only return to Gozo in the weekend. On the other hand, Maltese students, after university, probably go home to a warm meal. In the morning they find clean clothes, and to make it in time for the first lectures they would not need to board a ferry.

I feel that those who think that the Gozitan complain, they are not really understanding what it entails to go to and from Gozo and Malta. Those who cross over to Gozo once in a year for a holiday do not really understand.

I don’t want to depict the Gozitans as victims. This experience, from an early age, nurtures an independent identity in the Gozitan student. He would be able to face all the challenges involved in an independent way of life, like money management, the hiring of the apartment, the food, the social or solitary life of the Gozitans in Malta, and public transport, amongst others. The same problems I used to face many years ago.

But the ĠuĠ committee is determined to address these problems in a serious manner. They are thinking of updating their website and from simply a website wherein one looks for an apartment in the vicinity of university, they are thinking of building a website updated with work and press releases that this hard-working committee is engaged with.

During our meeting, the members of the ĠuĠ committee mentioned the challenges and the discouragement they received from the authorities regarding their journey to Malta, especially the public transport and the ferry crossing. They also mentioned the way some students are treated by owners of the apartments they hire during the academic year; moreover, none of the Gozitan students are given the opportunity to use the University residence, since the University prefers to hire out this residence at a higher rate to the foreign students rather than the Gozitan students.

The lack of digital information of the books in the library of the University Centre in Gozo was also mentioned, together with the need to make more use of the video conferencing facilities that are kept in the University Centre of Xewkija. It seems that this equipment was bought to be kept stowed away in a kind of wardrobe.

The Authorities should give more heed to what the Gozitan students are saying. I believe that now after these students got together for a press conference with Alternattiva Demokratika, we should soon here of the PN and the MLP following suit. Let it be the day!

The infamous Public Transport Authority should understand, once and for all, that because of the laid-back attitude of some of the drivers, or the lack of trips from Valletta, many a times students end up having to wait for long hours in winter for the ferry back to Gozo. Of course … it is not them that the next day they have to wake up early again to catch the ferry back to Malta.

And what about the fact that the drivers of the public buses do not allow the Gozitan students to board the bus if they have more than two bags? They do not know that these bags most probably would be full of dirty stinking clothes that the Gozitan student takes with him home to wash.

The Gozitan students today form 10% of the University students in Malta. As Prof. Arnold Cassola, the leader of the party, said during this press conference, “The Gozitan students do not need favours but more respect as citizens in whom the country is investing for the future. It is certain that the Gozitan students do not need to be treated as second-class citizens.”

Heartfelt greetings to ĠuĠ.

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