Over 80 student questions received by student organisation Pulse over the last few days, contributed towards their official reaction to the electoral proposals of the three major parties.
A well-attended Electoral Proposals Conference held at KSU common room and organized by student organisation Pulse, saw Owen Bonnici (PL), Prof. Arnold Cassola (AD) and Karl Gouder (PN), defend their respective proposals in response to Pulse’s official reaction,
“We shall discuss points that have been emphasized, discussed and not discussed at all through out the electoral campaigns of all three parties,” said Pulse general secretary Ryan Spagnol.
In stark contrast to a conference held by Christian Democrats SDM, students were spared from having to sit through what resembled more an episode of Xarabank than a civilized discussion.
In his opening remarks, Dr Gouder discussed the ‘three pillars’ of the PN electoral programme, highlighting the link between employment and a ‘sound educational system’.
“ We are building a knowledge-based society with technology at the forefront of our educational system,” he said.
“ ‘Maghna taf fejn int’, it says it all. We’re not skirting any issues, you know where we stand,” said Prof Cassola AD International Secretary. He went on to highlight his own party’s pillars saying, “ We’re focusing on social injustice, environment and civil liberties.”
Responding to Dr Gouder’s comments on the PN’s, “Track record on employment,” Prof. Cassola insisted that while creating jobs is important, the government had, “Hung low wage earners out to dry.”
It wasn’t just the PN that had done low wage earners a disservice insisted Prof Casolla, he illustrated this by comparing the wages of cleaning staff at the University (€ 6 per hour), to that of wages for cleaning staff negotiated by General Workers Union’s Tony Zarb (€3.50 per hour). Prof. Cassola also discussed his party’s objection to disabled workers receiving 55% of minimum wage, describing the amount (€350 per month) as, “miserable”.
PL’s spokesperson on Higher Education, University, Research and Culture, Owen Bonnici, insited, “While we have taken great strides forward in education, there is still so much to be done,”- “50% of 19 year olds don’t continue their studies and this is not acceptable.” He said.
Dr Bonnici indicated that the government’s increased spending, wasn’t reaping enough benefits, “ Bologna spends far less than we have been spending, but they have far better results,” he said.
Dr Bonnici closed with an anecdote of a conversation he had with Malta Union of Teachers’ Kevin Bonello, where Mr Bonello implored Dr Bonnici to introduce tablets gradually. This informed PL’s decision to introduce tablets at fourth grade drawing comparison to a PN proposal which he said “Isn’t well thought out.”
(Interesting anecdote seeing as in response to a question posed by insteronline earlier this week, Dr Bonnici had expressed his regret at not consulting MUT on the introduction of tablets.)
Prof. Cassola’s view on Tablets was met with disapproving head shakes from both Gouder and Bonnici. “While they are an important educational tool, there are more pressing issues, you can’t just promise to give people toys” – “We need to make classes smaller, the ratio is too high… this will create more jobs for teachers and fill the schools that you (PL and PN) are going to be building every year.”
The AD International Secretary also discussed democracy at the University saying, “ We understand disproportional representation more than the two big parties.” -alluding to the electoral system of student council, to which Dr Gouder replied “The PN has never interfered in student politics” which invited sniggers from members of the crowd.
Cassola also discussed PL’s proposal to provide stipends for students who repeat a year, asking, “ Why have you created this apartheid between University students and Higher Secondary students? Why aren’t you proposing to offer this extra stipend to University students too?” To which Dr Bonnici responded, “The largest Number of student drop outs occurs at the end of post secondary, our proposal is aimed at ensuring that these students get the chance to enter University.”
Responding to a question posed by insiteronline on the financing of research at the University, Dr Bonnici assured the conference that research is a priority, “Our plan is to collaborate with the private sector to finance research at University, small projects have already begun in this regard and we believe that this is the way forward.”
Answering to the same question Dr Gouder added “I agree, but it’s also important to point out that the government needs to fork out more money on research, we have already done so with projects like ‘Bio Campus’.”
In an interview (read here) published on insiteronline, the Dean of the faculty of Engineering Dr. Ing. Betts described Bio Campus, as “Cosmetic” if investment is not increased.
Stay tuned for a comparison of the official SDM and Pulse reactions to the Electoral Programmes.