Education and the environment are seen as equally important by Maltese youths… but not everyone sees eye to eye when it comes to these essential points.
Over the last few weeks, Lovin Malta has been reporting on what six newly-elected youth local councillors – three from each major party – think about topics ranging from the effect of politics on their lives and cannabis legalisation.
While the idea of legalising cannabis was a divisive issue between the local councillors of the Nationalist Party and Labour Party, Lovin Malta also asked their opinion regarding the environment and education.
Here are four things that we learned.
1. All of them declared that they are pr0-environment
All the youth councillors from each party pledged that they will be proposing environmental initiatives in their locality.
25-year-old Francine Farrugia, a PN councillor in Siġġiewi, said that she took “the initiative to introduce The EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK campaign in Siġġiewi by applying a full week of activities between the 16th till the 22nd of September 2019.”
20-year-old Frederick Aquilina, a councillor in Ħal Luqa said he’s already made proposals such as “more bring-in-sites, more recycling bins around the village especially in prominent places, bins for cigarettes, bins for dogs’ litter.”
Other local councillors, such as 25-year-old Justine Palmier, 16-year-old Carlos Zarb and 21-year-old Scott Camilleri pledged that they are “pro-environment” and they will be making proposals in the future.
18-year-old Martina Grech, Qormi’s young Labour local councillor, is even more ambitious. Grech stated that she has “in mind to also try and bring my locality to be greener and for families to have recreational areas such as investing in an Eco-park in one of Qormi’s multiple valleys.”
2. They perceive the state of the environment differently
While all of them said that they are pro-environment, there is no bi-partisan agreement in describing the state of the environment.
Palmier said that “it doesn’t make sense we kill our environment to implement something in scope of something non-environmental. I also really get worried because I don’t want my future children to live in a country where no environment is left.”
While the Nationalist councillors expressed alarm on the situation, the Labour councillors showed a different level of concern.
Grech and Camilleri mentioned that economic growth is the result of environmental degradation. “We are in an economic boom, and with infrastructure work, it will cause a lot of pollution and environmental pressure,” Camilleri continued.
Grech compliments his reasoning, saying that “we cannot stop change from happening as this is an essential part which keeps our economy going we need to weigh the positives and negatives and see what is really needed for our country.”
“We live on a small island which has its limitations when it comes to the amount of land space we have,” Grech echoed.
“The big majority of Malta is still rural,” Zarb added, arguig that “the government is creating a lot of environmental friendly incentives and projects, but we can do more.”
3. They are all against introducing a compulsory foreign language
On the subject of education, all of the local councillors from both sides expressed their opposition towards a recent MATSEC proposal to make the teaching of a foreign language compulsory in Sixth Form.
“When I was in Sixth Form, I used to study a foreign language, so, to be honest, I am not totally against this new MATSEC’s proposal,” Palmier told Lovin Malta. But despite her exposure to a foreign language she believed that students should not be “enforced to choose a “foreign” language because I believe that they should choose the subjects that they mostly like.”
The sentiment was the same among her Nationalist pears, with Aqulina stating that “it is unfair on students” who do not perform “well in foreign languages because this might be the cause of their failure in being eligible to enter a course at the University.”
Their Labour colleagues’ opinion on the matter showed that on a youth level, there is bi-partisan agreement.
“I feel a bit sceptic the reason is because I don’t believe that subjects should be forced,” Zarb said.
Grech was again more adamant, saying “I am totally against” the proposal, adding that she is “not a fan of foreign languages as it was always my weakness when it came to study them. It was already a challenge for me to study French at O level.”
4. Education reform should focus on hands-on experience, sports and new technologies
While they have come out against imposing a foreign language, the young local councillors gave their own suggestions on education reform.
According to Farrugia “the education system should focus on long term knowledge acquirements based on hands-on experience”, with students having “a taste of the real working expats that companies and different industries require.”
Her proposal is similar to that of Camilleri: “There has to be a system that gives full-time pay and System were students feel the working world. Youths cannot have a culture shock after they leave education and get into work.” Grech also shared the same opinion.
More emphasise on sports was also mentioned by Farrugia, Zarb and Aquilina.
Palmier, on the other hand, said that “the education system should invest more on” in ICT, robotics and gaming which “should be introduced from primary level to allow young students familiarizing themselves.”