The Gozitan University Group have launched their new rebranded image and fully revamped website during the celebration of the 30th anniversary since the arduous conception of the group in 1987. Insite were fortunate enough to be invited to the ceremony which included speeches by PN MP and ex GUG President, Dr Marthese Portelli as well as Ms Josanne Cutajar, GUG’s first President. Current GUG President, Maria Dimech and current Vice President, Francesco Caruana also spoke about the organisation’s achievements, aims, and the website itself.
With Dr Portelli abandoning formal discourse, she spoke of her personal experiences and the trials and tribulations of being a Gozitan student and what she strived for GUG to be. This, she remarked positively and proudly was what the current GUG have impressively done in terms of the presence and effect of the organisation, congratulating them as well on their rebranding exercise and new website.
The ex-President also had a few words of advice for the current executive such as, “Where there is union, there is strength,” and, “Keep on dreaming, keep on fighting, keep holding your heads up high.” Her words of advice came from experiences she endured both in her time at university between 1996 and 2002 where GUG did not have an office and used to hold meetings in her flat, to when she was already a politician in 2008 and had to help Gozitan students who were stranded in Gozo due to an issue with the ferry which was going to cause all to miss a crucial architecture exam. This, she remarked, is no longer an issue since GUG have managed to push for exams to happen in Gozo thus always helping students in their time of need.
Ms Josanne Cutajar was, on the other hand, a prime example of the maxim that active students will always retain their spirit and energy towards activism by not only recalling what GUG initially strived for, but also what she sees as the future of Gozo overall. The first targets and achievements for GUG were to lobby for direct transport from Cirkewwa to University, and for the right to leave their heavy bags at the library overnight rather than potentially lug them across the channel twice daily. A number of statements were released in the press at the time, as well as meetings with Ministers, who didn’t always take the group seriously, where a Gozitan campus was suggested. Although, this was met by a fair share of obstruction in forms such as a competitor group set up by the state which eventually disbanded, and Ministers literally brushing them off.
About the future of the sister island, Ms Cutajar is painfully aware of the lack of opportunities for graduates on the island, as well as the ageing population. She suggested a tracer study on Gozitan graduates to directly focus on the issues and tackle them as soon as possible, as well as using the idea of an ageing population to the island’s advantage potentially making it the Mediterranean’s Florida; a sort of retirement island. Ms Cutajar held the maxim of the active citizen by powerfully insisting that, “Civil society must push for change.”
Ms Maria Dimech opened the conference by introducing her audience to the new direction of the group explaining that the goal of GUG is, “Making Change Easier”. With a focus on student apathy, which has been the struggle of a number of organisations throughout the last few years on campus, Ms Dimech spoke of the difficulties that every Gozitan student must endure, such as being away from home for the first time. Future prospects for GUG are a constant and strong presence on any decision to be taken regarding the Gozitan Campus, as well as further financial help to Gozitan students coming from less financially stable families.
Mr Caruana proceeded to conclude the conference by going through the new website and all its intricacies and services. Namely that it can now be accessed from all devices increasing accessibility and functionality for all students; services including internship opportunities, property and career help; an Mgarr live-cam, Gozo Ferry Timetables, bus routes, and more. The website, designed by Mr George Zammit, also includes a downloads page which will hold in it all documents Gozitan student might need. The Vice President ended on the spirit of the new motto and goal: “This website is a further step to ensuring a better life for Gozitan students.”
The conference was brimming with a sea of beaming faces, particularly belonging to the executive and past members, shared drinks and a wonderful atmosphere at a beautiful secluded Villa aided by the Gozitan band, Novel. Perhaps a cosmic blessing also graced the celebration when a shooting star crossed the skyline during the website demonstration.