Maltese students defend stipends from cuts, 1997

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
It is unclear how long the campaign truly lasted. The evidence points to anywhere between one week and four weeks. Additionally, it is unclear whether protests began in October 1997, prior to the official Budget announcement on November 5, 1997.
November
1997
to
November
1997
Location and Goals
Country: 
Malta
Location City/State/Province: 
Valletta
Location Description: 
streets, especially in front of the Parliament building
Goals: 
The student protesters' goal was to return the stipend amount back to its pre-1997 level, that is, at Lm60 monthly for the first year with an incremental increase each year after the first.
 

Prior to 1997, students in Malta received a full stipend to attend a University or post-secondary school. In 1997, as a portion of the full budget reform meant to decrease the large deficit, the Labour party of Malta proposed the reduction of the student stipend from a yearly, incremental stipend to a flat Lm50 per month. This proposed reform would also make 50% of the stipend be paid in the form of a loan, as opposed to a grant (with the exception of students attending the Institute of Health Care). College students in Malta protested this stipend reform in the form of mass rallies in 1997. Their goal was to return stipends back to their level prior to 1997.

On “Budget evening” (November 5) in 1997, the day that the New Labour Government announced the national budget, hundreds of University and post-secondary students arrived outside the House of Parliament to begin their mass protest of the government’s measures to reduce stipends. Barricades at Palace Square halted the students from moving any further. The student political organization at University of Malta, SDM (Student Democrats of Malta) led the demonstrations. Pulse, a student activist group, also took large part in the protests. KSU, a general representation of all post-secondary students in Malta, also played a huge role in the protests.

After the initial rally on Budget evening, Junior College students held subsequent protests and marches. These included candlelight vigils as well as locking the school gates shut with padlocks and chains. The former KSU president, Manuel Delia, addressed and led students at one of these protests. Delia famously stated in his public address: “The Nationalists are still better than Labour”, referring to the pro-stipend political party in Malta (the Nationalists). At a candlelight vigil held in Malta, signs read “hands off our education”, attacking the government and specifically the finance minister (Leo Brincat) for their cost-cutting measures.

It was not just the students who felt strongly about this matter. There was additional controversy within government as well as within labor unions regarding the reform, as to whether it was indeed just.

On September 5, 1998, many months after the protests ended, the Nationalists gained majority in the House of Representatives in Malta and announced a new plan of action for stipends. Students would get a lump sum of Lm400 (U.S. $1000) to buy equipment such as computers, and another one-time sum of Lm200 (U.S. $500) for books. Additionally, students would receive Lm60 ($150) monthly. This brought the stipend backto its pre-1997 level.

Despite these relatively immediate measures to satisfy the student protesters, stipend reform became more complicated just a few years later, with the subsequent elections. More reforms deducted from stipends for students, and the issue has become a partisan point of conflict.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"MCESD Committee Proposes Partial Repayment of Stipend after Graduation." Malta Today. 15 Aug. 2004. Web.

"Pulse – Social Democratic Students of Malta » About." Pulse – Social Democratic Students of Malta. Sofresh. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://www.pulse.org.mt/about/>.

"Not so Angry Anymore-KSU Welcomes Proposed Stipend Reform." Malta Today. 7 Aug. 2005. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.

Briguglio, Michael. "Ideological and Strategic Shifts from Old Labour to New Labour in Malta." Diss. University of Malta, 2001. Print.

Vella, Matthew. "Austin Gatt Sidekick Manuel Delia to Run for Fifth District." Malta Today. 28 Nov. 2010. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.

Sansone, Kurt. "Brincat Says Labour Did Not Spin before Budget." Malta Today. 21 Nov. 2004. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.

Sultana, Ronald G. "The University of Malta's Student Stipend System." International Higher Education: The Boston College Center for International Higher Education 18 (1999): 12-13. Print.

Additional Notes: 
Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQgs3QrH7F0&feature=player_embedded#at=57

Edited by Max Rennebohm (14/07/2011)

It is important to note that the time period for this campaign is unclear.

Additionally, this case is one in which there was temporary success.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Samantha Bennett 27/03/2011