Opposition leader Bernard Grech has called out the health authorities for “discriminating” against university students, after they were informed that some of their lectures will be held online next semester.
“I would like to express my full solidarity with students who – after two years – are still not being allowed to attend lectures physically,” Grech said. “Even though they are vaccinated, even though larger events are being permitted, even though small classes are being allowed.”
“Of course we must listen to the health authorities. But these authorities must explain why certain discrimination is taking place. And as the country moves towards normality, there must also be more political direction. I believe the right to a proper education, should be given priority.”
Grech has largely shied away from criticising or questioning the logic behind the restrictions imposed by the health authorities, and this is his strongest statement in this regard so far.
It comes after three university law student organisations – GħSL, ELSA Malta and the Junior Chamber of Advocates – penned an open letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela in which they urged him to allow them to return to campus physically next semester.
They warned that students in courses with large cohorts (including law) have been informed by their faculties that their lectures will be held online next semester.
This is because the spacious lecture halls at the Gateway Building are still being used as emergency wards for COVID-19 patients and there aren’t enough large lecture halls to house large groups of students while adhering to the one-metre social distance rule.
The students accused the authorities of adopting double standards to COVID-19 rules, noting that both PL and PN recently organised political rallies for hundreds of people while standing events with up to 100 people can take place without any social distancing.
“It is truly unjust that university students are not allowed to return to campus to continue their studies in an environment which is pro-active and collaborative, rather than simply attending lectures virtually – a task which has proved to be mentally stressful and unfruitful for many students,” they wrote.
“It is safe to say that the age group that the majority of university students fall within has one of the highest vaccination rates, ultimately reflecting their desire to return to campus.”
They proposed that students either be allowed to return to campus physically or that the university adopt a hybrid system whereby larger cohorts are split into groups that alternate between physical and online learning.
Should university lecturers be held physically next semester?