A walk through the University
A few days ago, I had a meeting on the University campus which I had not visited for many years, probably since I last lectured there in the mid-1980s. I was well and truly flabbergasted at the enormous changes which the University underwent since my student and lecturing days.
My mind sent me vague recollections of what life at the University was like when I joined in 1976 and graduated in 1992. My first impression was, there were not so many of us back then; ah, yes, only 900 of us and now thousands. My days were those when medical students and others supporting them were beaten and pushed all the way from Castille to the University campus in 1977, the year in which we were beaten up on the Gozo boat for selling our newspaper L-istudent, the years when Labour thugs of Żejtun repute graced us with their occasional presence on campus.
How student life has changed!
Ours were the days when only the traditional degrees were available to students as opposed to the vast variety of degrees and diplomas available, not to mention postgraduate courses. The hustle and bustle of campus was incredible. It was alive!
Then I ventured into the library, overflowing with information and my thoughts wandered to the day we locked ourselves inside in protest at the measures being implemented by the Labour government of the day and remembered how the police had raided the premises when we had already left through the back windows.
I remembered the student worker scheme where you had to have a “godfather” to sponsor you so you could study at the Univerity. I remembered the numerus clausus where only a chosen few were admitted into the University.
As I sat and looked at the hundreds of students rushing to and from lectures I realised how the University gates were broken open by successive Nationalist administrations allowing any young and even not so young Maltese to follow his/her dream and pursue a university education.
Then I remembered the stipends which are dished out to help. I remembered the promises the Labour Party had made prior to the 1996 electoral campaign that the stipend system was guaranteed.
But then I also remembered Evarist Bartolo having a change of heart on the stipend system.
I visited the students’ canteen and sat down with a couple of students who I soon discovered were part of Pulse, the Labour Party student wing who were convinced that student benefits were safe, just because Joseph Muscat said so.
It reminded me of the times when the Labour loyalists believed all that Dom Mintoff told them, then to call him a traitor in 1998.
Then, the U-turn of accepting Mr Mintoff’s daughter as a Labour Party candidate for the next election.
U-turns are certainly not uncommon in the Labour fold.
Don’t we know!
As I walked in circles attempting to find my car, I remembered my graduation day, which was originally to be held on December 13, 1981 but had to be postponed because of the elections.
Yes, I graduated at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, in Valletta accompanied by police dogs, riot police and helicopters.
What students deserve is for their stipends to be protected, their University to be safeguarded and to find jobs after they graduate as they always have managed to do with the Nationalists in power.