▪️ Pathways ▪️ All good things come to an end ▪️ Good old USK ▪️ Smelly diapers ▪️ So Late in the Day

I met a foreign educationalist from Estonia recently and was surprised by how many times he used the word “pathways” in discussing what he called the journey from secondary school to higher education to fulfilling career — a journey that, for too many students and those from low-income backgrounds, is often anything but smooth. For an unduly high percentage of them, it’s never finished. There are too many speed bumps and roadblocks along the way and not enough direction to guide them.

This is where the high-quality pathways, mentioned by the gentleman I met, come in. The key, according to him, is to give students pathways from education to employment that are seamless, structured, and common-sensical.  The idea is to align education with their interests, and to support them at every step along the way.

I was told of four key components to creating these pathways. The first is quality advice to help students identify the right school and career plan. The second is giving them access to (and credit for) higher-level coursework — so they can see themselves as successful students and save time and money getting that degree. The third is to make credits transferable between institutions and count toward their degrees. And the fourth is facilitating career-connected learning experiences, like project-based assignments, internships, and job shadows; that way, they can experience what it’s like to actually do the work they’re interested in, gain relevant skills and experience, and make connections in the field.

Data tells us that people who don’t start tertiary education within a couple of years of getting their secondary school certificates are less likely to persevere and eventually get a post-secondary degree or credential. So, the best way to capture students finishing secondary school, so they can get the best jobs for themselves and make the most out of their careers, is to reach them early and ensure they have what they need to stay on the path.

Apparently, in a pathways-oriented programme, rather than asking what people want to do with their careers — a massive question for both 18-year-olds and older students alike, and one that limits them only to professions they already know about — the persons running the programme ask what they’re interested in, what their strengths are, what they care about, and, critically, how much time they have.

This involves having so-called dual-enrollment programmes that allow secondary and post-secondary students to take courses that are intentionally designed to relate to their interests and expose them to potential future careers, rather than often ending up attaining a random assortment of unrelated credits that are irrelevant to them later on. 

I am aware that, in 2015, the Ministry for Education launched a nine-year Higher Education Strategy.  Unfortunately, it’s very rare that we are told whether all the strategies we have are attaining their objectives or even whether, given the rapid pace of change in the world, such strategies have had to be tweaked to meet emerging new needs.

All good things come to an end

Not all the newspapers reported some sad news regarding a bar in Victoria some days ago.  It concerned the closing down of Coney Island Bar which, the Times of Malta reminded, was run by two elderly sisters.  They were reported to have thought they would “be born and die” there. But the pastizzi and te fit-tazza joint has closed down after almost 100 years.

OK, the place did not have the latest décor.  In fact, anybody entering there would have thought that he had been bodily-transported back to the past.  To cap it all, one you sat down on the bare aluminum and formica-clad chairs, the pictures of Coney Island would remind you that their father used to go there frequently when he worked for Ford in the USA.

Maria Debrincat, 80, and her younger sister Georgia, 76, used to welcome without fail the piping-hot pastizzi trays at 6.15am every morning – and the office workers, who followed the breakfast trail.  But no longer – they were priced out when rent shot up from almost €100 a year to €16,000.

Photo: Karl Andrew Micallef/Times of Malta

Back in the old days, their father would bring in a musician during Carnival and there would be dancing for three days indoors.  Coney Island’s busiest times were during the feasts of Santa Marija and San Ġorġ in summer, when they could sell up to 20 trays of pastizzi – about 800 – a day.  But during the rest of the year, it would be both a bar and a communal office where accounts were closed and payments made to employees.

Eventually, competition from more modern cafes with more extensive menus forced them to start closing at noon, when they would stop to have their lunch, slow-cooking it on the stove in the backrooms. Brodu (broth) was one of their menu items.

The Times of Malta said the two sisters harbour no rancour and “their feelings of nostalgia are seasoned with a reasoned understanding of the owner’s situation and a good dose of humour.”  Maria told the reporter: “I will now be playing the piano and Georgia the violin. You’ll find me in Paris.”  Georgia winks from behind the counter.

I must admit that I too, for a long time, used to frequent the place when visiting Gozo.  Holding that piping hot glass in your hands and eating delectable pea cakes was pure heaven.  Alas, no more.

Good old USK

Our Foreign Minister Ian Borg has been doing sterling work in the foreign affairs sphere.  But I am disappointed that he has not yet signed any agreements with the USK.  No, that’s not a typographical error in spelling the USA.  I am referring to the good old United States of Kailasa.  If Paraguay has signed one such agreement, why can’t we, I ask?

In mid-October Paraguay signed a “proclamation” that expressed a “sincere wish and recommendation for the government of Paraguay to consider, explore, and actively seek the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States of Kailasa and support the admission of the United States of Kailasa as a sovereign and independent state in various international organisations, including, among others, the United Nations.”

Representatives of the “country” met with agriculture minister Carlos Giménez, and his chief of staff Arnaldo Chamorro signed a memorandum of understanding in which Kailasa offered to help Paraguay with a variety of issues, including irrigation.

It later turned out that Kailasa did not exist and its representatives were acting for a fugitive Indian guru, who also appears to have duped several other officials in the South American country.  On Kailasa’s website, the fictional country is described as the “revival of the ancient, enlightened Hindu civilisational nation which is being revived by displaced Hindus from around the world”. The self-styled guru, Nithyananda, is wanted in India on several charges, including sexual assault.

Naturally, the revelation sparked a scandal and Chamorro had to resign, though equally naturally the minister who didn’t even know where the country was located, did not.  In favour of Chamorro, it can be said that, earlier, Kailasa’s representatives had managed to participate in a UN committee meeting in Geneva, and also signed agreements with local leaders in the United States and Canada.

Perhaps Ian Borg’s reluctance to sign such an agreement might be because he “qajla”, excuse the pun, can he be taken for a ride.

Smelly diapers

Paris Hilton recently revealed, in an episode of the reality show Paris in Love, that she had not changed her first baby’s diaper in its first month because she was scared.  Afraid of what? 

Hilton then asked her sister Nicky Hilton, “Should I learn how to change his diaper?” about her then-new-born son, Phoenix.  Even then, she was hesitant because it happened to be her birthday. What followed was a diaper changing lesson from her nanny and her sister. Paris Hilton took more than a minute to diaper her new-born son.

Now the heiress/entrepreneur/DJ is getting plenty of practice.  She recently announced that she and her husband Carter Reum had welcomed a second child – daughter London.

Photo: Paris Hilton / Instagram

What I can’t understand is that, if Paris found her son’s diapers smelly or didn’t know how to change them, why didn’t she get a nanny to do it?  Surely, it was not for lack of finances, seeing that she’s worth around $300m and likes spending her fortune on houses and big parties.

So Late in the Day

Readers of this blogmay by now have realised that I like reading books.  I am rather eclectic in my choice.  Often, a title catches my attention and the subject could concern the life of a serial killer as much as that of the habits of an antler deer.  I am not necessarily out to become knowledgeable about something but am also happy if the book is a good read.

Today, I wish to write briefly about Claire Keegan’s So Late in the Day – a collection of three stories about women and men and the uneasy, if not violent, tension in chance encounters, failed relationships, and loveless marriages.  Keegan is one of Ireland’s best writers and author of Small Things Like These, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022.

In her latest exceptional work, Keegan explores male rage where, in one of the stories, a man lives in the legacy of his father by committing unforgivable acts of coldness towards his fiancée.   The man contemplates his mistakes but not to reform himself, rather to wallow in a mixture of regret and hatred.   In another story, a woman writer working on a new book has a one-night stand with what turns out to be a desperate and dangerous man. These stories give an image of some men as being defined by sickly hunger, fragile pride, and a boiling rage at the waning of their social power.

What makes Keegan stand out is her skill in illuminating violence, weaving the strands of misogyny in individuals, and diagnosing the problem.  But she does more than that.  She shows how that same misogyny and violence extends from individuals to the Irish State and certain institutions.

Keegan writes about the convent where nuns lived in comfort in what was effectively a prison for young girls dressed up as refugees, a Magdalene laundry.  Keegan does a first-class job in refocusing the abuse away from pious morality and toward its true commercial heart: the laundry was used by every local business that depended on the slave labour of the girls to keep going.

In running the laundry but also the “good” school, the nuns used their power to determine what is and is not a “good” family, curtailing brutally the girls’ rights.  It was not merely an isolated aberration in Irish society but a whole system of exploitation and violence by the powerful. 

Despite the huge progress made in what was long a conservative bastion, Keegan seems to suggest that the battle against dynamics that corrupt individuals and institutions, has still not been won and that making a stand is not futile.

Main photo: Pixabay

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