For many Gozitan students and youths, pulling the short straw has become a little too much of a tiring and recurrent experience. Battling everything from a lack of studying opportunities and poor connectivity to Malta, to the threat of ever-rising rent prices, Gozitan students have been left with their backs to the wall – and they’ve had enough, along with graduates and other young people.
In response, the National Youth Council (KNŻ) has teamed up with the European Parliament Office in Malta to offer the perfect platform to air students’ and youths’ concerns and suggestions, face-to-face with some of Malta’s own MEPs!
The debate on Gozo’s future in the EU will feature PL MEP Alfred Sant, PN MEP Roberta Metsola, KNŻ official William Vella, and Gozo Business Chamber President Joe Grech.
Here are some things on the wishlist of those living in Gozo:
1. Alternative travel between Malta and Gozo
Photo: Gozo Channel
It’s an argument as old as the sea that splits the two islands – the population is divided on how to better improve travel between Malta and Gozo. The resounding cry, however, is clear – people living in Gozo yearn for more effective solutions to the current three-ferry system, particularly those who work in Malta.
A 2015 survey conducted by the Gozitan University Group (GUG) found that 84% of Gozitan students favoured a fast ferry, while 74% wanted a cross-channel tunnel.
The fast-ferry is by far the more popular option – but is it the best one for students? Is it a sustainable option? Will the ferry only serve as a direct connection to Valletta or should alternative stops be offered?
On the other hand, if an environmentally-sound solution is offered for the creation of a tunnel, could that be more cost-effective in the long-term?
2. The future of Gozitans in the EU
Gozo already has a particular status (Declaration 36) in the EU that can continue to make it eligible for maximum funding even if the whole of Malta is no longer considered so – but is this enough?
Indeed, 55% of Gozitan students of that 2015 GUG survey had said the EU is not promoting Gozo enough. Last October, during a conference hosted by MEP Sant on What The Gozitans Expect From Europe, expert on the island’s development Frank Psaila had argued that Gozo should have been given 31% of EU funds, as opposed to the allocated 10%.
Does Gozo deserve a better deal from the EU, and what should that deal involve? Is there any way the EU can help out Gozo besides merely pumping money into it?
3. More jobs in Gozo itself
As Maltese, our general perception of Gozo is that it’s the place to relax and have fun – the perfect holiday island for a long weekend of doing the bare minimum. For many young Gozitans and those who call the sister island their home on the other hand, this image is an old and tired one – and they want Gozo to be so much more than that.
Youths want more job opportunities on the island, and want to break the current mould of having to move off the island for better career prospects. On a scale of dead-depressing to 10, Gozitan students ranked their likelihood of their finding a job in Gozo at a measly 3.28, hardly fair on young people that want to battle brain-drain.
On the flip side, others worry that embracing industry and businesses without proper consultation would kill Gozo’s charm and turn it into a second Malta. Could there be a way to find a happy medium between the two?
4. A potential solution to a notorious rent problem
Remember that Gozitan student who compared the state of Malta’s rental property market to Brazilian favelas? Well, other students have taken the issue to heart and found what they think will be the perfect solution to battle ridiculous rent – student hostels.
That’s right, one hostel for the University of Malta, and one for MCAST! The Ministry for Gozo is currently analysing this as a possible solution, particularly given that the benefits that Gozitan students receive for help with rent amount to little more than loose change.
“We are working on a new project to build and run a hostel/accommodation in Malta to cater for the students’ needs,” said Minister for Gozo, Dr Justyne Caruana late last year, “[and] are undertaking a cost-benefit analysis while exploring different sites to render this project a reality.”
Pictured: Not the type of hostel the Gozitan students are proposing.
Communal housing for students would not only help strengthen the sense of community away from home, but it would also do away with exorbitant rent pricing. Is this the true answer to helping Gozitan youths?
5. Full-time courses at Gozo-based campuses
Here’s a quick thought: why not just give Gozo it’s own University and do away with all the rent and transport issues – oh, hang on a second… Gozo actually has its own University, MCAST and ITS campuses sitting pretty in the tiny island’s capital.
So why not make use of them? As it stands, these campuses only offer part-time evening courses, however 66% of Gozitan students said they would rather study in Gozo if they had a choice. Which makes total sense of course – less hassle travelling each day, saving way more time, reducing carbon footprints, and lightening the financial burden placed on students are all promising targets to set.
We’re all for this being a thing. So: knock knock, Gozo, 2018 calling – make this happen!
6. A Gozo Regional Council
If ever there was a group of people who knows how to fix Gozo, it would be the people living there themselves. Shocker. This proposal was first aired some 20 years ago but has now started gaining ground again. Which seems to be a way-overdue call, but anyway…
The idea is to have a a council composed of Gozitan civil society representatives – including students – that once set up would act as an autonomous pressure group to help voice issues and give direction and backing to the Gozitans’ concerns.
Sound like a promising start to helping Gozo and its inhabitants get the leg up they (definitely) deserve? The Creating Your Own Europe debate will take place next Saturday (14th July) at the Hotel Calypso in Marsalforn from 10:30 ’til 12:30 and will be followed by a reception. Entrance is free but you must book your place in advance by sending an email to [email protected].