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Academic life: what are we going to do about it?

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University equips young adults with the knowledge and tools that can be useful later on in life. But certainly the benefits a youth can gain by simply attending lectures and studying are extremely limited. While attending lectures takes on most of a student’s responsibility, this is not the only activity that such an instititution provides. For that reason, the present article has to be intended as a sort of analysis of the current academic situation with regard to student apathy.

Unfortunately, it seems that not enough has been done. We will never manage to reach the ideal situation because the tendency to progress/ regress, depending on the favourable or unfavourable circumstances, will always be present. This must not be thought of as a disappointment but rather as a fresh stimulus to constantly see how university life can be greatly enhanced. Passivity, the attitude of delegating, and increasing individualism are features that should be eradicated. The driving forces behind a better and more satisfying university are dynamic approaches, interest, curiosity, and an enhanced mutual learning through constant cooperation.

Considering the elections of the students’ representatives, I tried to elicit some information by asking many students on campus for their opinions in relation to the university (if they feel represented, if they feel part of a community, if they voted and the reason that justifies this vote).

Only 30% of students voted in the university elections while a striking 70% either has only little idea with regard to the implications of such an event or, more worrying, shows complete disinterest. Furthermore, among the 30% of students that voted, there is a tiny percentage who simply voted for their friends and acquaintances. For those it was not a real conscious voting.

Many students consider the elections to be a popularity issue (the general perception is that it is compared to playing cards: “2 options, SDM always wins, so i’m not going to waste my time”) . If this is the general thought, the only way to change it is by being more active and by participating more. We have to be the first, as young students, in approaching seriously the elections of students’ representatives. These representatives will be even more stimulated in performing their tasks to the best of their possibilities if they notice real interest from the majority of the students. What’s necessary is communication and the willingness to grow together to make a difference in a collaborative way, because extreme individualism will lead to more complications. No shyness, no fear: just the willingness to contribute and learn.

Many students tend to associate SDM and PULSE with the national politics, ie. with the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party. It’s not like this. If sometimes it may seem as such, let’s try to rectify it. If we tend to consider something in a certain way, then certainly that specific thing will acquire those characteristics just because of the fact that we conceptualised that peculiar aspect in that way. Do we want the academic environment to be a reflection of what’s happening at a national level? No, right? So, the only option to be more satisfied and contribute together to a more rewarding university lies in us, as students, participating by removing all the preconceptions. We have to consider the power of the collectivity. We can make a collective agreement and  say: “no connection between academic level and national level”. In this way, the situation will improve. Some influences will probablyremain there, but if we truly believe in this, those thoughts and concepts will certainly fade away. It all depends on us.

Others feel that there exists a need to reach out more effectively to us, to understand the students more thoroughly. There is the underlining necessity of a consistent presence within the council/ parties throughout the year. For that reason, there is a fervent opposition in relation to the strategic approach in order to get votes during the period of the elections.

Furthermore, there is the need for more transparency and credibility- putting too much on the agenda, only to have some of those proposals implemented by the end of the year does not help stimulate interest.

As far as I am concerned, I can perfectly understand all the reasons that the students I talked to gave me as a justification for not voting. But evidently, if the general tendency is to continue to behave in this way, the situation won’t improve.

There is the compelling necessity to work on fostering the communication. The students need to be stimulated constantly with regard to the possibility that they can live in a better and more productive way throughout their academic years. The situation can be improved if there is real commitment from both sides. The student body should develop a more open-minded attitude and interest towards what’s happening. The council should be more transparent in its work, be as clear as possible when it comes to successful or unsuccessful implementations of a proposal so that we, as students, are able to grasp all possible implications behind the work of the Council.

Some students told me that they had tried to get more involved in the past but the results were always the same and, for that reason, they gave up. This means that some still participate actively in what’s going on, others start and give up, others just come to lectures, study and go home, while others again expect someone to push them. This kind of situation is the result of the individualism that is ruling our society and that we are favoring by behaving in this way.

Improvement and satisfaction can come if we, as young students, manage to instill a sense of collaborative academic environment where there is the space for growth, sharing, and discussion. If we are aware of this situation, why don’t we try to do something about it? The change, a more satisfied academic life, is dependent on us, on how we approach the difficulties and how we deal with those stereotypes that blind our mind and the way in which we pursue our lives.

With this article I am not pointing fingers at anyone; I want to be clear because somebody may misinterpret what i’m doing by saying that I’m condemning the system or implying that KSU does nothing from day to night. Absolutely not. On the contrary, my aim is to analyse the situation, provide a clear picture of what’s happening in order to make students think about it. I intend to make them understand how the change, the satisfaction, the proactivity and the energy that should be intrinsic features of our young age can help us handle our academic years in a better way; if we undertake an active role in what’s happening, if we try to do what we can to improve.

And cooperation is the key, not individualism.

I would greatly appreciate feedbacks on this article. If someone has ideas, proposals or even disagree strongly with what I’ve just written, please contact me on geremia.graziano@hotmail.it.

Posted in Opinion, Opinion

I’m not one to judge, but…

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We currently live in a superficial world where appearance matters a lot. ‘What you see is what you get’, as the saying goes. However, it is easy to be entrapped just by the exterior of a person or object, without digging deeper. This is where the adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ comes in. The literal meaning of the latter is that one cannot dismiss the quality of a book just by looking at the cover. It could be that a book with a blank cover and simple title using a generic font may be of more importance and influence than a fancy covered book.

This metaphor can be extended further than books of course, and is most commonly used in relation to real-life situations. Perhaps the best example has to do with people and their relationships with one another. If you see a beautiful man or woman, would you be more likely to pursue them as opposed to a more average-looking person? Unfortunately, this is most often the case. It could be that the better-looking person has no sense of humour, or opposes all your moral views, or is the rudest person. The prejudice of deciding on something based solely on what you see before you could cost someone their pursuit for happiness.

The truth is that it’s difficult to stop being superficial. Our sense of vision is strong and it is quite easy to fall into the trap of a magnificent object deemed ‘better’. Therefore, the best way to beat superficiality is by maintaining a certain amount of self-discipline and by pushing the judgement aside, instead opting to dig deeper. Who knows? The less beautiful object could have been your key to happiness. However, you can never know if you base your decisions on ‘what you see is what you get’. It is by looking at the less obvious features that you will find the outstanding features of the average person or object. When you do, you will find it with great confidence. And treasure it.

Posted in Opinion, Opinion

Industrial action hindering results lifted

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The Education Ministry has announced that the directives restricting the publication of results have been lifted. University students can expect to start receiving late results sooner than later.

The Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) and the University of Malta Academic Staff Association (UMASA) have reiterated the industrial action they had issued on July 4th, after a fruitful meeting with the Government.

Today’s meeting was headed by Minister of Education Evarist Bartolo and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna. All stakeholders believe there is now a good basis from which finalised agreements can be reached. As a result, the two unions have lifted the industrial action which had been operating for over 3 weeks.

In a statement, the University Students’ Council (KSU) said it is disappointed that negotiations were only quickened after “considerable pressure was made”.

Over 2,500 signatures were collected in an online petition, released by KSU yesterday, to lift the industrial action. Nationalist party leader Simon Busuttil, Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Arnold Cassola, and MEP Roberta Metsola were among its key signatories. KSU were prepared to organise a student rally if an agreement was not reached by July 31st.

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Simon Busuttil signs KSU petition

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Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil has added his name to the online petition issued yesterday by the University Students’ Council (KSU). Over 2,300 signatures have been collected in the past 24 hours.

Busuttil appealed to the Government to always keep the interests of students first.

In a statement, he said that students must “never be used as a political ball, especially at such a sensitive time as now when they’re waiting anxiously to see whether the sacrifices they had made throughout the past academic year will bear them fruit”.

The KSU petition urges the entities involved in the financial negotiations to move forward. If an agreement is not established by July 31st, the deadline for University staff to administer the publication of results, KSU declared that it will organise a student rally.

The petition directly addresses Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Education and Employment Minister Evarist Bartolo, the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) and the University of Malta Academic Staff Association (UMASA).

Many students are still waiting for results, that have not been published due to the industrial action initiated by MUT and UMASA at the beginning of this month.

According to the online poll carried out by Insite on July 15th, 84% of students are yet to receive their results.

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MMSA encourage students to sign petition

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The MMSA is pleased with that all the fourth year medical student results have been issued, as this will allow them to punctually apply for the Foundation Programme abroad. However, the MMSA will keep on representing its students’ best interests and press for the publication of all of the remaining results for the rest of the medical classes. They consider this particularly worrying for international students who are abroad, or those medical students who will be on a medical exchange in August. In a statement made to Insiteronline, MMSA encouraged students to sign the petition created by KSU that is aimed at pressuring the government and the unions to move forward with their negotiations. The petition can be found below.

 

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/honourable-pm-joseph-muscat-ministers-evarist-bartolo-edward-scicluna-and-unions-umasa-mut-i-call-upon-you-to-stop-the-reluctance-to-move-forward-with-negotiations-students-are-not-bargaining-tools-or-chess-pawns-and-their-rights-aren-t-to-be-trample

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KSU could organize a student rally next week

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KSU (Kunsill Studenti Universitarji) are concerned that, after contacting the University of Malta, UMASA (University of Malta Academic Staff Association), MUT (Malta Union of Teachers), the Ministry for Education and Employment, and the Ministry for Finance, no action has yet been taken to secure students’ rights in the wake of the ongoing trade dispute.
Seeing their efforts being ignored, KSU will be launching a petition “inviting students to unite against this blatant abuse of the student body”. They stressed that students will not be held hostage, especially to lecturers’ salaries. If the trade union action is not lifted and a solution found by the 31st of July, the deadline for the submission of results for publication, KSU will consider the ‘radical action’ mentioned in previous press releases.
They said that “a student rally will be called later on in light of the shameful ignoring of student’s rights and use of students as a convenient tool in this whole saga”.
Posted in News