Seminar seeks to reinvigorate student organisations
This academic year saw a record number of new or revived student organisations surfacing amongst the student population on campus. Despite this increase in student participation their was also a record low number of voters for the recent Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU) election, when only 9.98% of eligible students voted.
Student politics is a topic that the majority of students are not particularly conversant with. It is sometimes difficult to get the student to understand what KSU is, let alone the average citizen or the media. Whether it is a lack of political education at secondary level or in the Systems of Knowledge syllabus, or just the fact that students are only concerned with their three or more years on campus before stepping out to work, still remains a phenomenon.
Recently, student organisations were invited to a KE-KPS seminar where old and new student organisation members learned about the history, structure and function of KSU. For someone like me who had a brother involved in MMSA (Malta Medical Students’ Association) for many years, student participation was engraved in me from a young age. I remember stealing my brother’s @KSU magazine whenever he used to receive it at home and read about what was happening on campus at the time.
I also used to help out during MMSA activities and would visit the Student House when in those days MMSA had a little messy office much like the one I work in now with Insite – some things never change. I fondly remember attending the KSU Student Fest and Campus Fest as well during my Sixth Form days.
However, the most influential moment for me was when I was chosen to be a KPS observer for St. Aloysius’ Sixth Form. I remember a different KPS from the one I attend now. The debates were better structured and represented as each organisation had something to say and always made sure they said it!
Before then, I couldn’t really say I knew what KSU is all about. Sometimes that one little chance of being involved in the bigger picture changes your whole perception of that little picture you had in your mind before. Despite this I dispelled all familiar notions and attended the latest KE-KPS seminar on Saturday, 24 April with an open mind.
The session started a bit late. Around 45 members had registered to attend but only around 30 showed up including current and newly elected KSU Executive members. This was a real pity as the seminar was well-organised and structured. Organisations that were present included ASA, CommA, GĦSL, Insite, SCubed and SDM, with SCubed having the highest number of new Executive members present.
Former KSU Executive member Dr Justin Fenech kicked things off with a brief history of KSU from its foundation in 1901 to the present day. Did you know that KSU is the oldest national students’ union in Europe and that NSTS (the first language school in Malta) was actually a sub-committee of KSU? And did you ever hear of the time when Prince Charles was to visit campus to unveil a plaque and at the same time Government finally decided to tarmac the ring road around campus and add proper facilities for the students? I repeat – some things NEVER change.
Students got so annoyed at this after years of asking for these upgrades that they decided to steal the plaque overnight and hid all the chairs for the arrival ceremony on the roof of Students’ House. It’s a hilarious reaction but pure genius. A stunt like that these days would not go down too well at all. But Dr Fenech was quick to point out that the due to the nature of the times (the thirty-or-so years after World War II) “students had to be rebels”. In fact, the biggest KSU vs Government clash was and still remains the medical students’ issue during ex-Prime Minister Dom Mintoff’s time in government.
Dr Fenech then went on to explain the structure of KSU by using a simple diamond shaped illustration. The diamond is KSU and being a union that means any student enrolled in a course with the University of Malta, Junior College, Institute of Health Care, Bighi and the Gozo Campus is a member of KSU. This means that all students can attend and have a right to vote during the KSU Annual General Meeting (AGM), which is the highest body of the diamond structure. On a level playing field are KPS and KE which were included within the current structure in 1995.
Most students are not familiar with these two anagrams. KPS refers to ‘Il-Kummissjoni tal-Politika Soċjali tal-KSU’ and is made up of all the active student organisation members on campus. When the media reports an issue tackled or a vote passed within KSU this is actually done by KPS.
The terms are used interchangeably as arguably KSU represents the whole structure after all. This is why sometimes people get confused which is which. In order to have voting power within KPS a student needs to be part of the Executive board in a student organisation and attend KPS meetings. Also, members of KPS can raise topics on the Agenda during KPS meetings which are mainly of social, economic, political and environmental reasons.
KE on the other hand tackles academic issues and is made up of all student faculty/centre/institution representatives on campus. KE stands for ‘Il-Kummissjoni tal-Edukazzjoni tal-KSU’. Sometimes an important issue may overlap and be discussed in both KPS and KE, as happened with the UMASA directives back in 2008/2009.
Dr Fenech closed this second information session off by reminding student organisation members that they should think ahead, continuously involve potential members and engage in constant training. He also reminded us that:
“You are the crazy people who have decided to do this. Some students like you get it but then you have those that just never will get it and never will get involved. You must have the willingness to work together or else keep fighting on who is right. And remember this: Nobody’s right!”
The third session saw student organisations and student reps divided into two groups. The former was headed by Leonard Bonello (ex-Secretary General of KSU) and the latter by Roberta Avellino (ex-President and Education Commissioner of KSU).
The sessions were very engaging where the speakers got everyone to debate on what KPS and KE are all about and the rights and responsibilities pertaining to each student involved in these two. Current KPS and KE commissioners and coordinators were also present to give their input.
Finally, an interrogative style session was organised by Mr Bonello on the functions of the KSU Executive Board. Current and new members were put on a panel in front of the whole group together with other new student organisation members and questioned on their roles within KSU or their organisation. The first panel had Carl Grech (ex-KSU PRO and 2 years running President in KSU), Karl Agius (ex-Education Commissioner and current Secretary General in KSU) and James Cassar (ex-KSU PRO and current Vice-President in KSU).
The second panel had Isabelle Camilleri (ASA President) and Jonathan Falzon (SCubed President) describing their challenges as President in a student organisation. The final panel had Martina Galea (current Finance Officer in KSU), Rachel Cassar (ex-Social Policy Coordinator and current KSU PRO) and Nathan (new Finance and Acitivites Officer for SCubed).
As a result of the very positive response from this session, participants requested more seminars like this to be held throughout the year.
After the sessions participants socialised over some food and wine and were still buzzing way after. I took this as a chance to mingle with different students and everyone said that they had definitely learned something new from the session (even the older and more knowledgeable members).
In addition, new members or reps did not find it to be intimidating at all and are now more enthusiastically looking forward to pursue their student life and get involved in KPS and KE. And with this optimistic attitude in mind, I hope this is the start of a change in the right direction for student life on campus.
This entry was written by Tamara Chetcuti and posted on Friday, May 7th, 2010 at 7:13 pm under Featured, Opinion section on insiteronline.com
PROMOTIONAL WORK #1
‘Talent’ is the buzzword these days. But does it come naturally or from experience? Well, the answer is both. And even if you’re already good at something, you know what they say: Practice makes perfect. Why not develop your skills and discover your talents through Insite?
Insite is quite possibly the leading student media organisation on the island. We have been voicing students’ opinions for almost a decade now through different media like radio broadcasting and print publishing. This would not have been possible without all the dedicated and TALENTED students whom we had the pleasure of working with over the years.
Where do YOU come in?
Insite represents YOU. It is the organisation for students run by students. Every year we look for new people who can contribute to the team and bring forth their own expertise and ideas.
As an organisation, the main roles are divided into two departments: THE EXECUTIVE BOARD and THE MEDIA OFFICE.
THE EXECUTIVE BOARD
- Chief Executive Officer
- Official representative and spokesperson of Insite who is responsible for internal management of members and offices within the organisation, including communication and crisis management and who speaks on behalf of the organisation. Ideally, this person has already worked with Insite and/or has an understanding of the organisation’s vision and experience in media.
- Secretary General
- Responsible for the composition, maintenance and archiving of all Insite documentation and literature, including any reports. Also, responsible for the Human Resources Branch and the Financial Controller within the organisation. Should have good organisation skills and pays attention to details.
- Sales and Marketing officer
- Responsible for carrying out market research and appointing a PR Officer to help in establishing and implementing a Marketing Plan. Also, responsible for sales plans of every medium in the organisation. Takes care of advertising in The Insiter magazine and establishes relations with the national media.
- Operations Officer
- Responsible for the ground operations and logistical implementation of all activities organised by Insite. Organises all internal and external events, tasks and activities, fundraising events, training workshops and the distribution of Insite’s media products.
- Media Officer
- The Editor-in-chief of all Insite’s media products who together with the Web Editor, Newspaper Editor, and Video Editor, is legally responsible for InSite’s online media, print media, and audiovisual media respectively. Also, represents Insite on any media-related body, association or network, including the Journalists’ Committee and the Student Press In Europe network.
- External Relations Officer
- Responsible for the organisation’s relationship with the local media and the public, as well as other student or youth organisations, NGOs, public bodies and the University Administration. Represents InSite on the KSU Social Policy Commission (KPS) and liaises with the KSU Education Commission (KE) and its members. Also, promotes international opportunities available to students, is responsible for InSite’s international operations through networking and international opportunities for the InSite members and represents InSite on an international level.
- Development Officer
- Responsible for the qualitative development and maintenance of the organisation. This person shall be entrusted with the updating of the quality manual, the concept development and branding of the organisation and must appoint a Quality Controller and Research Co-ordinator to conduct feasibility and quality reports.
THE MEDIA OFFICE
- Media Officer (see above)
- Web Editor
- Responsible for the running and development of insiteronline.com and new initiatives on the internet. Acts as the legal editor of the website and works with the Web Team members within Insite and is in charge of their training.
- Print Editor
- The legal editor of the publication, The Insiter, which is published monthly. Develops the print initiatives and works with the Print Office members in the design and content of The Insiter. Also, in charge of training Print Office members.
- Video Editor
- Responsible for the running of InTV and is its legal editor. Also, develops InTV and new audiovisual initiatives. Co-ordinates Audiovisual team and is in charge of their training.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN ANY ONE OF THE ABOVE VACANCIES?
If so, contact us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the Executive Board or Media Office vacancy of your choice in the subject line by not later than APRIL 16.
Of course, we always welcome new writers, journalists, web programmers, graphic designers, illustrators, scriptwriters, video editors, camerapersons and anyone who is generally interested in the media.
Looking forward to welcome you into our team during the next academic year.
This entry was written by Tamara Chetcuti and posted on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 at 11:26 pm and is filed under News on insiteronline.com.
17.3% of University students used drugs in the past year
The latest research project by the European Centre for Educational Resilience & Socio-Emotional Health has revealed that 17.3% of University of Malta students have made use of drugs in the last year. The findings were released in a publication titled ‘Healthy Students, Healthy Lives’ and was one of the topics raised during a debate organised by GhSK (Ghaqda Studenti tal-Krminologija).
A debate entitled ‘The White Line’ was held on Friday 4 December in the Common Room at Students’ House. Speakers invited included Jesmond ‘ic-China’ Xuereb (ex-drug addict), Jareth Mark Grima (Sedqa), Trevor Calafato (former probation officer and an assistant lecturer at the Institute of Criminology).
A short visual video on drug use played in the background as Mr Xuereb shared his experience with drugs as well as his experiences overcoming drug abuse, after experiencing his fifth overdose.
“Motivation and hard work are necessary in the rehabilitation programs, but those who dare and those who really want to make it will indisputably win”, he remarked. However, he pointed out that even people who have been ‘clean’ for a considerable number of years still remain sufferers.
“I always liked the way an alcoholic introduces himself even after winning over his addiction: Hi, I’m Jesmond and I’m an alcoholic. Why do they refer to themselves as alcoholics when they haven’t touched alcohol in years? Once you become addicted to a substance you never stop battling against it.”
The music video of No Bling Show’s ‘Lucija u Samwel’ was played on screen. The song and video are a symbolic message that the Maltese are starting to accept that Malta is losing the clean and safe image it once portrayed. As Mr Xuereb reflected, acceptance is the first step to change.
An interesting topic raised was the false stereotype that only people who had poor or abusive childhoods are inclined to drug abuse. Mr Calafato remarked that “there is no class when it comes to drugs” and Mr Xuereb admitted that one’s “character is fundamental” when it comes to substance abuse. One student brought up the situation in Holland where in some areas drugs are legal. None of the panel members agreed that drugs should be legalised in Malta because people react differently to the same substance. “They may stop taking drugs but they might move on to the next addiction… alcohol, cigarettes, violence…something to replace it”, added Mr Xuereb.
In reply to whether enough is being done by Government in the fight against drugs, Mr Calafato expressed his frustration with individuals who complained that they were not given assistance before being sent to prison.
“Sometimes, jail time can worsen the situation and this is why we give drug abusers a second chance to reform. However, if they continuously fail to attend their counseling sessions and reject the help provided by their probation officers then we have no choice. If the individual doesn’t want to be helped then what else can we do?”
Mr Calafato also remarked that in Malta we still do not have drug courts and as a former probation officer, he explained that the first year after completing the rehabilitation programme is always the most difficult for drug abusers, especially whilst they are looking for a job with a tarnished criminal record. Mr Xuereb commented that he felt that more could be done by government.
Mr Gerald, from Sedqa commented that the agency is seeing an increase in cocaine and heroin abuse. He emphasised that the number of clients seeking services does not reflect the actual numbers of users. The panel of speakers concluded by recalling Mons. Victor Grech’s observation that almost every family in Malta has a drug addict.
The last part of the debate included the official reaction by KSU to the recently published statistics of drug use amongst University students. Mr Karl Agius, KSU education officer, pointed out that the “numbers are alarming” and that, currently, there is no KPS stand on the matter as only a few years ago the subject was still considered taboo. However, he admitted that the situation cannot be denied anymore and invited all student organisations under KPS to discuss the issue further. “People expect the professionals of our country to be serious individuals who are not involved in drug abuse. According to these statistics, our image is a different one”, he said.
This article was written by Tamara Chetcuti and posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2009 at 6:56 pm under News on inisteronline.com.