11 weeks have passed since this pandemic started in Malta and full-time students that are currently employed on a part-time basis are yet to receive an answer from relevant ministries and the government.
Whilst appreciating the fact that Malta offers the opportunity for free education, one must not overlook the expenses incurred by students. Students are thankful and also grateful for their monthly 90 Euro stipend; however, many have a part-time job such as in the tourism industry in restaurants, hotels and English language schools. Being a student has its very own expenses such as photocopies, books, equipment, loans and nonetheless transport.
Full-time students who work on a part-time basis pay 10% National Insurance contribution just like any other full-time employee. For many students, their main source of income is not the stipend but their part-time job. Some students must be financially independent whether they like it or not as they do not receive monetary support from their parents or guardians. Even though we were advised to stay at home, students still incurred expenses such as rent and food bills. Also, in the beginning of the scholastic year, many media sources pointed out that several students were seeking help from food banks in order to eat.
It is also unfair for the government to consider a 90 Euro stipend to be indistinguishable from an 800 Euro pension. This was the reason given by the government to the students when they questioned why they were not eligible for this wage supplement.
Also, before the commencement of the scholastic year 2018/2019, student maintenance board informed the students that they would need assurance from their work place that the student will not be working more than 20 hours a week. Students have always respected this working limit in order to get the respective stipend; however, the possibility of working more hours was taken away from them, thus, students not being able to be independent as they would like to be.
Nonetheless, we would like to thank the Prime Minister Dr. Robert Abela, Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Chris Fearne, the Superintendent of Public Health, Profs. Charmaine Gauci and the Minister of Education and Employment Dr. Owen Bonnici for their hard work and dedication towards our country.
Michaela Cassar and Kaleigh Cipriott are full time students at the University of Malta