Lectures held late in the evening make it impossible for students to engage in extracurricular activities, according to voluntary organisations who say the current university system is forcing students to drop all their commitments or risk failing courses.

Students who enjoyed doing voluntary work would often be forced to drop everything once they make it to university, due to an unpredictable timetable system, members of the Żgħażagħ Azzjoni Kattolika, or ŻAK, the Malta Girl Guides and the Scout Association claim. The groups have joined forces to address the issue they say has been a problem for years.

“Semester after semester we face the same problem. Students have lectures from 8am to 8pm, with little or no time to do anything else,” Sarah Caruana, a ŻAK group leader told this newspaper.

The groups decided to come together after a first-year student from the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy had to abandon her role as ŻAK group leader after learning she would be having lectures until 8pm on Wednesday.

How can we expect young people to be active citizens if the education system is forcing themto drop everything?

For over a year, the student had served as the leader to a group of 14-year-olds, helping them develop social skills and supporting them through adolescence, Ms Caruana said. “This has now come to an abrupt halt, and her meetings have had to be taken over by someone else until the summer.

“She had built a special bond with the kids. That’s all lost.”

Ms Caruana said that the student was under the impression she would be able to make it to the meeting, held Wednesdays from 6pm to 7.30pm, as no lectures had initially been scheduled.

However, she soon learnt the lecturer was only available during that time and so the lecture was moved. The student reached out to the Registrar earlier this month, but has not yet received any feedback.

“How can we expect young people to be active citizens once they leave university if the education system is forcing them to drop everything while studying? Unfortunately, if full-time students want to succeed, they cannot commit to anything but their studies, which makes no sense and only serves to promote individualism,” Ms Caruana said. She said that the organisations are calling on the university to update the present system and not have any lectures after 6pm, so students can still join voluntary organisations or sports teams.

Reacting to the students’ claims, university spokeswoman Patricia Camilleri said that the university operated from 8am to 8pm and had done so since 2009. When drawing up timetables, she said, it sought to accommodate the availabilities of students, academic staff and venues.

Ms Camilleri said that to date, no such issue has ever been raised with the university through internal channels.

The students’ council education office said the council had in the past received complaints about the long hours and, when possible, it brought the issue to the attention of the Registrar. “Although as stipulated in the University of Malta regulations, attendance is obligatory, every effort should be made by the institution to allow time for students to be involved in extracurricular activities,” said Ryan Falzon from the KSU office.

He said that the council was working closely with the Registrar’s office to make sure that students did not have more than five back-to-back lectures.

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