Monday 22 January 2018


This is no kind of education

If I were Joseph Muscat yesterday at MCAST and saw before me students chanting Malta Taghna Lkoll at the top of their voice to drown out the chants of the students chanting Nazzjonalisti, Nazzjonalisti, I would have made an appeal for the Labour supporters to stop.

I would have told them that they were there to listen to a debate, and that part of the ethos of a debate is tolerance for the opinion of your adversary, and the ability to rebut his arguments with sound logic. Because isn’t that, after all, the message Muscat is trying to impart to voters in his campaign?

But of course that didn’t happen, and the Labour party is now seemingly pleased that the vociferous welcome at MCAST was a kind of ‘payback’ for what happened at the university in 2008 when Alfred Sant was practically booed off the stage by the overwhelming number of students supporting the Nationalist party.

I didn’t like the hostile, antagonistic atmosphere which crackled at Sir Temi Zammit Hall five years ago and from the footage I’ve seen, I didn’t like what happened at MCAST either.  To me, they are one and the same.

I remember arguing with people after the fallout from the 2008 debate who justified it by saying it was ‘normal, rowdy student behaviour’.  And yet surprise, surprise, now that the students supporting Labour have come out in full force, all I have been reading are the inevitable, predictable adjectives describing them as hamalli, ignorant, semi-literate, and according to one teacher who foolishly posted her feelings on Facebook “barbarians”.

Apparently, booing Alfred Sant was legitimate freedom of expression, but booing Gonzi is spoken of in scandalous tones of “how dare they, they should be grateful for all he has done”.

I guess one type of booing is more equal than the other.

Frankly, it is clear that, five years down the line, we have learned absolutely nothing. Mindless chanting of political slogans does not belong on any campus – it is the reason why the blind fanaticism I see at mass meetings brings me out in hives.  But I guess politicians  need this visual, aural outpouring of support to assess their chances of victory.

Students, rather than being encouraged to think for themselves, challenge politicians with intelligent questions and actually listen to debates with a discerning ear, are being used and abused by the political system. Bringing partisan politics to our schools and colleges is simply making a mockery of our educational system, where the emphasis should be on learning not brainwashed clapping.  It is useless bragging about how we are churning out the numbers in post-secondary education, which looks so good for Eurostat, when so many teenagers obviously require a more holistic type of educational formation to turn them into complete, rounded individuals.

There is so much that could be done as part of the curriculum: Create debating societies, teach public speaking, open their minds to the importance of logic and analysis rather than simply regurgitating what the teacher/lecturer says.  Schools should encourage students to argue opposing sides so that they learn how to rebut an argument without resorting to insults, or simply hollering their lungs out.  Above all,  we really need to teach students some good manners.

Maybe we could send over a few politicians to these classes while we’re at it.


  • andre grech


    I tend to disagree with you that the chanting by students is one and the same as it was 5 years ago. But I understant that you being a labour supporter try to excuse what happened yesterday by mentioning what happened 5 years ago. 5 years ago the students booed Alfred Sant when asked a question about stipens as he was the prime minister who removed the stipens. The students present were university students.

    The case is different this year. The Pl organised this charade. The got people from outside the university and MCAST to show us all that labour has not changed. Nobody was pointing the middle finger at Alfred Sant 5 years ago. Nobody was crossing his has as a sign of fuck you to Alfred Sant 5 years ago.

    No Josanne its not one and the same. What’s one and the same is the Labour party that tried to present itself in a nice wrapper but once you open it you find disgust. To chant shame on you to the prime minister who worked so hard for students is simply disgusting.

    Bringing politicians and debates to schools is not bad at all. Creating a mob is what is bad.

    • Andre, were you at the university debate five years ago? Because I was there on stage as one of the journalists asking the questions so I had a clear view of exactly what was going on.
      Sant was booed more than once, even when he mentioned that he had cancer. The chanting of slogans and stomping were non-stop, so in my view, it was also an organised mob.
      And where in my article did I excuse what happened yesterday?

  • andre grech

    You excuse it by saying that it’s the same. You also attacked a teacher who called the students Barbarians. I agree with her totally. This is how our taxes are invested? In barbarians who call Malta’s prime minister (not just Lawrence Gonzi) shame on you. Remember that the person being offended was Malta’s prime minister and not an other MP. Why shame on you? For building a new MCAST campus? For craeting a society where 4,000 students graduate every year? for giving free tertiry eductaion and giving everyone a stipend? Yesterday’s mob was a shameful scene. It felt like being in the 1980s again. Josanne unfortunately your party will never change. And thanks to a 9 week campaign the Lion had to remove the sheep’s costume and escape from it’s cage. And its funny how the Malta is removed from the slogan in the mob’s chants.

  • Sarah

    I couldn’t agree with you more about your suggestion for pubic speaking and debating to be included in the national curriculum!

  • Brian Ferrante

    1. I agree with you that Joseph should have stopped the marmalja. Unfortunately he didn’t.
    2. I disagree with your comparison of this case with what happened 5 years ago. 5 years ago it was students. This year, non-students were brought in by the busload and hijacked the event, to the extent that genuine students from both MCAST and the University could not get in. The ‘hijacking’ was organised, to the extent that persons who shepherding the rabble were wearing headsets.
    3. You point out that some people who said nothing last time are scandalised because Gonzi was booed this year. You seem to forget the reaction of leading MLP/PL members last time. Looks like it’s OK for them now that Gonzi is booed.

    To me this is pretty much a failure of our educational system. Had these ‘students’ learned basic manners, they would have learned to let others speak, rather than trying to drown them out with senseless chants. From what I saw, it seems like we’re destined to relive Orwell’s Animal Farm again.

  • Audrey Friggieri

    Well said Josanne. Unfortunately in this country everything seems to boil down to an ‘us’ against ‘them’ thing.
    The media is a giant that encourages this mentality, and is obviously serving those who stand to benefit most from this situation. It is part of the family because everybody watches TV, in many cases predominantly the station of the preferred political party. Students bring their family culture with them to school, and this baggage then merges with or clashes against the school rules and rituals. The curriculum reflects the values that the dominant forces in society hold dearest. It might not reflect knowledge, which is also legitimate and valuable, that many students bring with them, knowledge which has been passed on to them by their particular environment.
    There is still much that must be done in the way of making students ‘complete, rounded individuals’, which at the end of the day might mean different things to different people.


    This is so obviously a country of two weights and two measures as we have always known. The behaviour at the debate at the University in 2008 was organised by a bunch of the usual suspects to embarrass Dr Sant and this after his illness. Although I had left The Malta Independent early that morning it was impossible to get into the auditorium as places for the press had not been reserved and it was brimming over with human beings, students and not.
    In this year’s debate students were booing Dr Gonzi. It was unnecessary I agree. They have appalling manners which is true of at least 80% of my fellow countrymen. However, with the recent HUGE oil scandal and also scandals of high profile businessmen hauled in for corruption I am afraid the Prime Minister is also responsible for this and not just for doling out the goodies to students. The discovery of ‘a block of ice’ in a Labour party club two years ago pales by comparison. The country seems to be AWASH with drugs after all. Where does the money for yachts and luxury boats and apartments etc. come from. It is certain that not all are bought with hard-earned cash. I believe the students were booing because of the state of corruption in a small Catholic island which has been governed for almost 25 years by the same lot. It is unhealthy and we are beginning to realise what Sant’s ‘power of incumbancy’ means. Out they must go if things are not to get worse in the next five years.

  • j.t. collins

    andre, you’re lying, no surprise, after all lying is in the pn’s dna, sant did not remove the stipends.
    brian, you said that this was “a failure of the educational system”….who was in charge of the educational system these last 25 years??

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