Saturday, 27 September 2008

Have you been to Salty Valley?

I remember well that many years ago, one of my nephews was here from Australia. I was still little. My brother Charlie told me to take his son to 'Wied il-Mielah'. I did and was happy to show my nephew around and explaining in 'English' the environs. And I thought that in English, 'Wied il-Mielah' should be translated into 'Salty Valley'. How funny.

I still remember the smell of drainage in this beautiful valley. In those years there were no commemorative marble plaques showing that EU dignitaries who visited the valley and no indications of the ceremonies which were to be held to celebrate the Euros from EU funding project for the rehabilitation of the valley.

Indeed, every now and then, we hear the Gharb PN Mayor and his Minister Govanna psoing for photos for the press on this site, in order to say that Gozo is to continue enjoying EU Funds, as the Gharb Local Council has succeeded in obtaining further funds for the Rehabilitation of Wied il-Mielah - not 'salty valley' anymore, but still an open drainage reserviour. Perpahs the MEPA enforcement section may like to pay a visit now that the rain season started rather than coming to gozo on a nice sunny day in Summer!

"Wied il-Mielah – towards an ecologically and culturally sensitive sustainable tourism is the name of the €600,000 project, which will be co-financed by 85% from the European Regional Development Fund. The project will give a touristic dimension to the works already carried out whilst respecting the environment."

Now imagine the tourists on this site TODAY, walking amongst the drainage flow going down from the valley to the sea! the smell is unbearable!

It seems that the rehabilitation of the valley are solely used for the construction of rubble of walls and bridges which have been destroyed, cleaning of the valley basin and resurfacing the road leading to the valley in order to make it more accessible .... yes they want more cars on eco-Ghawdex!

"Attractions including rustic furniture" - where over the drainage flow?

"Observation binoculars and audio visual equipment will be installed." - why? Perhaps to see closely the illegal hunting and trapping taking place on-site?

"The project will compliment the works carried out through the first phase also through the Structural Funds Program for Malta 2004-2006"

I wonder....

I honestly wish well for this project, but alas, if you find it hard to believe me, please have a look at the photo with the drainage flow taken today. Don't hope for any comments from the Gozo Toursim Assosiation. They have no flats or Hotels in this area.

Thank god that you can't smell it from the comfort of your home.

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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