More than 100 professionals from different fields gathered, on 21 May 2020, for the first ever remote Stakeholders’ Meeting, organised by the University of Malta’s Faculty for Social Wellbeing (FSW).
Hosted by Dean of FSW, Prof. Andrew Azzopardi, the Stakeholders’ Meeting served as an opportunity to celebrate the successes of interdisciplinary work undertaken since the Faculty was set up in 2012, while calling for a continuation of the ‘synergy of energies’ for the benefit of society, especially in view of the unprecedented challenges posed by the current pandemic.
Some highlights from the FSW Stakeholders’ Meeting included interventions by:
- President Emeritus and Chairperson of the Malta Trust Foundation, Mary Louise Coleiro Preca, who urged for the need to work towards the eradication of child poverty;
- Head of the Counselling Department within FSW, Dr Dione Mifsud, who said that if the Faculty keeps synergising energies, “we will be able to deliver a much better product for Maltese society”;
- LGBTIQ activist Gabi Calleja, who recommended the better integration of various terminologies into courses at UM;
- CEO of Aġenzija Sapport, Ruth Sciberras, who acknowledged the genuine effort of the FSW to be close to the community;
- Head of Disability Studies Department, Dr Claire Lucille Azzopardi Lane, who reassured those present that the element of cross-collaboration with other entities within UM and within society is very much alive;
- Dr Anton Grech, Chairperson of Dar Kenn Għal Saħħtek, and Lecturer in Psychiatry, who said the artificial divide between academia and practitioners should be a continuum, and who advocated for learning as a lifelong process so university constituents keep contributing in society even after they graduate;
- Dr Neil Falzon, CEO of Aditus, and Human Rights Lawyer, who pushed for a bigger voice on core human rights issues, and the integration of a human rights discourse within all UM courses;
- Public Policy Senior Lecturer, Dr George Vital Zammit, who reiterated on the importance of being embedded in society, as putting oneself in a position to understand more. He also said academics who are criticised ought to engage with this criticism instead of acting defensive;
- Dr Maureen Cole, Senior Lecturer of Social Policy & Social Work, who said that the University’s engagement in the humanisation of migrants is of critical importance.
Sociologist and Pro-Rector for International Development & Quality Assurance, Prof. Godfrey Baldacchino, also engaged with the audience in a passionate conversation about the fact that the current pandemic should not just be dealt with in medical terms. “People are not just patients”, he said, as he urged the FSW to put the beyond-the-medical discourse out there. He also said that the pandemic is not the only issue that merits more effort from the part of the academia and the practitioners alike.
“We are in the age of uncertainty. The pandemic in itself will pass, but migration, climate change, and the environment will not. There are no vaccines for those – let us remind ourselves we have an obligation to work on these”, he concluded.
Other than these interventions, a number of very useful suggestions were put forward in the live chat, including the need to establish a multi-disciplinary team to discuss the post-COVID-19 world, by Prof. Baldacchino himself, and the suggestion of documenting and publicising more the collaborations that already exist between the FSW and other faculties and with policy entities, which give concrete examples to be followed by others, made by Prof. Marie Briguglio.
“The coming together of so many professionals under ‘one roof’ is testament of the year-round, incessant efforts of me and my colleagues at FSW to reach out to society and conduct evidence-based research that does not remain shelved in a book, but is actually used to help improve its wellbeing”, commented Prof. Azzopardi about the Stakeholders’ Meeting, upon thanking his colleagues Ms Samantha Pace Gasan and Ms Charlene Fabri for organising the event.
A recording of the whole session is available for viewing at your convenience.