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KSU and Pulse lock horns at first KPS meeting

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The University Students’ Council (KSU) expressed its disappointment at Pulse for communicating with UMASA during the collective agreement issue, when Pulse had said that they will let KSU settle the issue themselves.

This discussion came about during a Social Policy (KPS) meeting organised today at Skyparks, the first of a series of meetings aimed at informing and getting feedback from the over 50 University organisations.

KSU president Gayle Lynn Callus demanded an explanation from any Pulse representatives who were present.

Joseph Masini, for Pulse, said they felt UMASA was the central stakeholder in the negotiations, and believed communicating with them personally would ease negotiations. In response, Callus said that he hopes Pulse consults KSU whenever it decides to take similar steps in the future.

This all occurred during a presentation, planned to have a small part on the agenda, about KSU’s reaction to the collective agreement that was settled a few days ago.

The aim of this first KPS meeting was to launch the Speak Up campaign with representatives from University organisations. Seven different committees will be meeting from mid August as part of this project, which will be discussing topics like migration and drug decriminalization.

The two main sub-committees, that will be drawing up preliminary reports throughout the scholastic year, will address health and the environment.

Becky Micallef, Social Policy Commissioner, acknowledged Insite for suggesting the creation of a committee to discuss the right to privacy, after controversy that emerged earlier this year about Vodafone giving information about their clients to the police.

Social Policy Coordinator Andrew Muscat opened discussions about the possibility of live streaming future meetings, and of establishing a KSU core group. Both issues will be addressed further in the next KPS meeting.

Maria Micallef, on behalf of the Victim Support Group, was also present at the meeting. She gave a short presentation about the NGO’s plans to collaborate with KSU and any other interested organisations.

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Majority of students, KSU in favour of new grant system

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A poll conducted by Insite indicates that the majority of University students are in favour of the Government’s announcement that maintenance grant funds will, as from next academic year, get sent to students’ bank accounts rather than to a smart card. From a sample of 348 respondents, 66% were in favour of it.

The University Students’ Council (KSU) said that this new system will make the purchasing of educational products more flexible. It also means that students who want to buy items online will no longer need to “go through the same tedious process to get a refund”. It will also help  Gozitan students who will now be able to use maintenance grant funds to buy Gozo Ferry tickets and pay for accommodation rent. KSU also recommended the reinvestment of the money that the Government will be saving as a result of this new grant system into research at the University of Malta.

This request was similarly echoed by student organization Pulse who “call[ed] upon the Government to invest the savings from such a reform back into the educational system.”

However, KSU also voiced their concerns that this new system will widen the scope for the possible abuse by students of government-funded money. “The Government should work hard to strengthen the mentality that money is not given for any reason and is, on the contrary, an investment for which the student should give something in return,” KSU said. They therefore asked the Government to explain how they will monitor this new grant system to ensure that students spend the money on educational material and extracurricular activities of the type that were previously smart card refundable.

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Two turtles freed after 9 month rehabilitation

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Nature Trust Malta today released two loggerhead turtles back into their natural environment, after 9 months of treatment at San Lucjan Centre in Marsaxlokk. Both turtles, called Monster and Neil, were cared for by volunteers of the NGO’s Rehabilitation Unit.

Weighing 47 kilos, the first turtle was found with a hook in its mouth, and was medicated to remove a nylon fishing line from its intestines. The second turtle required 7 months of cleaning and vitamin provision after it was found covered in oil and malnourished.

Over 140 turtles have received treatment at the Marsaxlokk centre, which can take the form of therapy and at times surgery. Medication for these and other turtles is acquired through funds from participants in the Adopt-A-Turtle campaign.

After 22 years of safeguarding animals, Nature Trust plans to set up the first wildlife rehab centre in Malta.

The NGO’s President Vincent Attard said that this is “the way forward” in protecting various endangered species such as turtles, chameleons and hedgehogs.

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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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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”.
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