Uni urged to honour war’s unsung heroes
Stories of people in the engine rooms coordinating the arrival of the oil tanker Ohio in the Grand Harbour more than 70 years ago, and the experiences of Maltese cooks on destroyers, remain untold.
There were other unsung heroes who built, manned and experimented with the early warning system that detected the enemy 70 miles off Malta, saving many lives.
These and other stories of Maltese workers who have no degree or certificate proving their abilities should be honoured by the University of Malta through a course that documents their experiences or an Honoris Clausis, according to electrical engineer Carmel Pulé.
Prof. Pulé, now 73, enrolled as an apprentice at the dockyard when he was just 14 years old, and left two years later for the Dockyard school of Chatham, UK.
There he was involved with maintaining secret coding machines and also gun control systems.
He studied electrical engineering at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and went on to read for a doctorate.
“From a very young age I noticed that not all types of intelligence are recognised by the education system. There are men and women out there who have spent all their life in the industry as skilled workers – at the power station, hotels, the dockyard, among others.
“There are people with excellent skills, especially around the Cottonera and Marsaxlokk area. They take care of the maintenance of ships and airplanes, shouldering huge responsibilities for people’s lives. But the education system is more vociferous about the literary skills,” Prof. Pulé noted.
The recognition of working skills by educational institutions would contribute to the economy’s growth, according to the university lecturer.
“There is a huge discrepancy between the wealth generators and the wealth circulators. The wealth generators are those factories that export their products, those offering local services abroad, those taking care of aeroplanes’ maintenance at the airport... while the wealth circulators are mostly related to social services.
“I’m not saying we don’t need wealth circulators, but there are too many of them, compared to the generators.
“Sciences, physics and mathematics remain among the most unpopular subjects, as they require tangible guarantees that that ship won’t sink and that plane will take off,” he added.
“There are those who armed Spitfires and Hurricanes, dug shelters, built the communications infrastructure in Malta, manned guns against E-boats and airborne craft, erected barrage balloons or loaded torpedoes. These experiences need to be monumentalised so that future workers can learn from their predecessors,” Prof. Pulé said.
Such people worked behind the scenes and should be honoured by being documented or even given Honoris Clausis.
And if they were encouraged to document their experience themselves, even with the help of others, through a course at the University of Malta, they could create a literary atmosphere at home which their grandchildren could pick up on.