From the 10th until the 14th of March, Grupp Universitarji Għawdxin (GUG) occupied the University quadrangle during the newly initiated Gozo Week. In the words of the organisation’s president Ryan Mercieca, the purpose behind this yearly event is to “get Gozo closer to the younger Maltese generation, and to stop the stereotypes”. But what has this organization done in practice to effectively fulfill its objectives?
Knowing its inception in 1987, managed solely by students themselves, GUG seeks to represent Gozitans undergoing tertiary education at both local and international levels. Even though its members believe it to be the only organization which gives Gozitan students the guidance they need, Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU) does its best to work in coalition with GUG as regards this aspect. While being available students’ queries, over the past few years GUG has sought to maintain a fruitful education for Gozitans by actively participating in numerous imperative decisions. Two very evident changes, which greatly affected students from Gozo, occurred last January. Here, GUG took a prominent stand in ensuring the protection of these young people’s development and well being.
First came an initiative the organization had been proposing at length, that is to give Gozitans the opportunity to sit for their University exams in their own hometown, rather than having to travel back and forth. The recommendation was actualized this year, whereby over 83% of those eligible benefited. A step forward would be to secure this possibility for all Gozitan students, especially since exams are often scheduled far apart from each other.
A second arrangement concerned the recent alteration of bus routes, in that GUG wanted to guarantee that Gozitan students could make use of direct links from Cirkewwa to University and MCAST. While this is a valid consideration, many Maltese students who live far away from University have to themselves endure lengthy travelling on buses, whether or not they can pass through direct routes. Would it not be wise to apply this amendment across the board, for all students locally?
In order to ascertain appropriate subsidies, particularly on accommodation and transportation, GUG supports students through affiliations with other organizations, and by establishing sub committees in several academic institutions, so to expand the group’s reach towards Gozitan students. It would be important for GUG to consider helping freshers more with finding affordable accommodation before starting University, so as to avoid complications during the scholastic year.
According to the GUG president, “further issues such as public transport are still on the agenda”. Although achievements have been copious and great, Mr. Mercieca states that the organization will keep working hard in preserving equality amongst Maltese and Gozitan students, and ensuring that none of the two feels inferior to the other in any way. Additionally, the newsletter committee for GUG is currently working on releasing a periodical magazine, which will cover various issues concerning Gozo.
It goes without doubt that GUG has provided countless benefits for Gozitan students. But at the same time, I believe that, to truly achieve the desired goal of affirming equal treatment of all students, Gozitans should be endowed with appropriate independence when staying in Malta to attend lectures. A balance should be found between aiding Gozitan students, and giving them time to adapt to their new lifestyle. I find this would be more effective than almost seperating Maltese and Gozitan students by treating the latter very differently.
The main event of this year’s Gozo Week was a debate between five of the MEP candidates, which took place on campus last Wednesday. Throughout the week many Gozitan artists, bands and musicians were also given the chance to expose their fortes at the quadrangle, alongside countless stands including ones providing information about the organization itself.
Photo by Mr.Frankie Ion Magro