Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Student Protest UPDATE 1

It seems that since I've posted the blog below the UMASA has decided to lift directives and Government will resume negotiations.

Let's hope it's not too late to restore our exam timetable back to normal and carry on with our lives.

Let the sunshine in for 2009! ;-)


"All in all it's just another brick in the wall"

Or is it?

When Roger Waters was busy penning the lyrics to one of the most influential albums in music history along with his group members, little did he know the extent to which those lyrics would inspire thousands of music listeners the world over.

Let's take 'Another Brick in the Wall.'

"WE DON'T NEED NO EDUCATION!" chant the dozen or so school-children in the well-known music video, who were sick and tired of their rigid schooling. Who did their teachers think they are? Mindless puppets without valid thoughts or opinions? This song was an outcry to the dictatorship that teachers made out of their position in those days.

But what does this phrase mean today?

If any of you followed the movie to this album you would know that the whole record is a concept album centred around the journey we know as 'Life'. If you didn't you've probably realised anyway. The 'Wall' is typically that invisible barrier we build around ourselves to block out all the negative events we experience in our life from childhood up to adulthood. The 'Brick' is one of life's challenges that we push aside to move ahead. So, in this context, was this protest song just another test of life that one had to go through? It must be more than just that.

Think about it.

Countries have banned this song because it opened student's eyes to the lack of liberty and freedom in schools. A lack of self-expression. A lack of rights. Where in some parts of the world this was just a cheeky anthem of school rebellion, in others this was a message of respect to the dignity of the child.

Now let's consider Malta. Today. January 7th, 2009.

It was 9.50am and I was standing outside the Common Room of the University of Malta waiting for many angry students to show up. It was raining outside and the room was filled with picket signs. The weather meant we would be rallying indoors. Original.

I had never been to a protest before. I was imagining marching students with froth at their mouths ready to hog some TV station's camera and ramble about what's wrong with this government. Alas, yesterday's good weather clouded my perception. Indoors it was. And boy was it rowdy!

Horns a-blowing! Picket signs held high. There was no space for all the protestors and media people. Still, the President of KSU (Kunsill Studenti Universitarji), Roberta Avellino, walked in and started her long but firm speech voicing her message on behalf of all University and Junior College students. Along with her was the President of the Junior College Student Council and a representative of all the Erasmus and International students.

Here is a re-cap of the events that led to today's rally:-

Early 2008: An MUT directive was issued by UMASA to prevent lecturers from releasing exam paper results. Some students wait till August or even September to get all their results!

Three months ago, lecturers symbolically strike for one day cancelling all lectures in the process.

16th December 2008: The UMASA issue FOUR MUT directives for academic staff at the University of Malta and Junior College. One of them is the withholding of all exam papers for the end of semester examination sessions.

The KSU, several student organisations, UOM students and the general public have had the last straw!

And all this because of a disagreement regarding a collective agreement between Government and the MUT which should have been resolved months ago.

The PROBLEM = (Government keeps backing up x Lecturers demand their rights by USING students as a BARGAINING tool) + 2(Students suffer) + Lecturers remain empty-handed

The repurcussions of the above-mentioned directive are the following:

a) Exams may have to be moved with the end of second semester examinations session sometime in June, July or even as late as September.

b) Second semester timetables will take long to come out because the second semester would most probably be critically shortened.

c) We might have to do exams in either our Easter or Summer holidays.

d) Erasmus and International students who are here under contract with the Government, their work bosses and landlords have already paid for expenses and cannot be granted more money to stay longer than their contractual terms allow them to.

e) Foreign students cannot come back again for exams because they might have their own exams in their own country and also this will cost them a lot of money. This is especially a sensitive issue to students from outside the EU, e.g. China and the USA.

f) If a foreign student cannot come back to Malta for exams this means they do not earn their credits which means they would have to fail or repeat a year. Don't forget, these students PAY for their higher education. This would be a waste of time and money for them, let alone lost job opportunities and a tainted degree.

g) Maltese and international employers might not accept a degree earned through pass marks due to higher education strikes and they have every right to do so.

And if that were not enough, check out the three other directives that were issued:-

1) BOYCOTT all University and Junior College faculty boards and the Senate - this is very serious because even the tiniest complaint or request must pass through the Senate. Also, we can't even get international examiners to help us because this would require approval from the Senate. Maltese students waiting for answers regarding their thesis or placements cannot get a reply because all faculty boards are suspended. That's a last year to remember.

2) STOP all work on the introduction of new courses and new examination assessment procedures - this is a disadvantage to Junior College students and all other students who were going to enter a new course but will now have to wait longer or else be forced to choose another course.

3) WITHHOLD results related to continuous assessment components - without results for assessments throughout the semester how can students be given a true overall mark! All the assignments and lectures attended would have been for nothing.

This is NOT just another brick in the wall.

And, as I listened on to the KSU president's speech, I couldn't help but wonder how many more directives would pop up in the future even if these four were dropped.

I am only in the second year of my degree and like many others, I have already been affected three times in the last 10 months by union directives and strikes.

We don't need NO education. We need AN education. One that complements the centre of excellence that the government wants to achieve.

Not only must we fight for our rights as students but our lecturers must also be satisfied in their plea for justice.

To reduce these intellectuals to such a sorry state of negotiation and students who are literally begging for their exams to take place, presents a crazy mixed-up image of the state of education in Malta.

Do you remember that Pink Floyd video I mentioned earlier? Think of that scene with the military march of the hammers.

Well, if lecturers really want to use us as a tool, I say let's be that tool. Let's be the hammer.

PUT THE HAMMER DOWN and keep it there this new year. Make sure students don't fall into the same trap again and again. We can't keep building bricks around ourselves. It's time to break down some walls and take action!

And that goes for all public institutions that deny your rights and hide the truth for their own private agendas. Show 'em who's boss or it's your own loss!

This my friends, is my message for 2009.

May it very well be a prosperous year to one and all...Happy New Year!

Tammy X


Sign the online petition against the directives on before it's too late!!