It is time our University students woke up to the reality that the largesse of successive administrations in the form of stipends and Smart cards is not something they should consider as their undisputed right. Ever since this idea of paying students to study was implemented, every government has been scared to dare breath that taboo phrase “remove the stipends” because they know it would be political Hara Kari.
Forget protests about what’s happening in the Middle East, Africa or passenger planes being incinerated over the Ukraine.
Forget student demonstrations against the eradication of the environment and the greed of unscrupulous developers.
Forget voices on campus objecting against any decisions taken by this (or any other) government in the way the country is being run.
The only thing guaranteed to rouse a Maltese student to action is if you touch their stipend, their exams, their lectures, or their parking space. I’m not exaggerating; when I cast my mind back over the last 20 years or so, I cannot think of one concrete example of students protesting about anything other than what directly hits their pocket or their lifestyle. [Which, come to think of it, makes students no different from the rest of society.] X’jimpurtani, as the Maltese saying goes (Why should I care?).
As with any other form of governmental handout, it is very easy to take it all for granted and the thought that it might one day all be snatched away leads to the inevitable indignation.
Now, I am not against helping students (or more specifically their parents) out, per se. Anything which encourages further education is a bonus for this country (although I wish we would make as much fuss over the teaching of manners and civic duty as we do about academics). Where I start becoming seriously allergic is when I see the kind of sense of entitlement being thrown around whenever any changes are made which might, you know, instill some kind of responsibility and accountability in those receiving the handouts.
It is for this reason that I agree with Education Minister Bartolo’s decision to do away with the Smart cards and switch the system to the form of a direct grant instead, because the Smart card had turned into a bit of a joke. From all accounts I’ve heard or read about, shops which had absolutely nothing to do with the educational system were accepting the card, which meant that the money was not always being spent on books etc anyway. People have objected to the grant system saying that students would fritter away the money being given to them by using it to go out and party, or to buy clothes, rather than on their studies, but hello, this was happening already.
Some parents are saying that this new system will make things even tougher financially on them. Now I have wracked my brains on this one, and I honestly cannot understand what they are on about. The government is giving your kid cold, hard cash to use specifically during his student years and you are saying it means you are going to have to fork out more money? If, by the time someone reaches University age, they have no clue about how to manage the money they are receiving gratis to cover their school-related expenses, then maybe parents should consider mouthing those four dreaded words: “go get a job”.
Take it from me, you are not doing your teenager or 20-something adult child any favours by continuing to fund their carefree spending habits.
Sometimes I think maybe what this country really needs is a cold slap in the face to realize that the treasury (funded by our taxes) is not a bottomless pit. And it would not kill students to fully comprehend that their parents’ bank accounts are not bottomless pits either.