Schooldays seem very distant when you are about to turn thirty-two. Adverts about le rentrée and all the deals on copybooks and schoolbags are just about the only reminder that school is about to begin. My school years were the eighties. I shifted from the dark blue blazers of Stella Maris College Gzira (the frères) to St. Aloysius’ College Birkirkara (the jesuits) and, the eighties being the eighties, was doubly proud of attending a church school. In a way it was a political statement – the schools prepared to defy the socialist government – intent on the “jew b’xejn jew xejn” (Free or nothing) slogan.
The church schools survived and evolved. The government has changed and a commendable reform of the educational system is in place. Among other things it involves a reorganisation of the structure of the State schools into regional Colleges. Yesterday minister Louis Galea announced the names of the Colleges and we got the following:
- Gozo College
- St. Margaret College
- St. Benedict College
- St. George Preca College
- St. Ignatius College
- St. Clare College
- Maria Regina College
- St. Nicholas College
- St. Theresa College
- St. Thomas More College
You may have noticed the glaring fact that, apart from Gozo, the names of a panoply of saints have been chosen for all the other colleges. The Minister may have some hagiographic fetish of some sort. Private school lovers (read mostly church schools) might claim that the Minister is trying to ride on the wave of desirability of their schools by giving state schools a similar facade to market. Whatever the case we have the State of the Maltese Republic choosing to baptise 9 Colleges with the names of Saints in 2007.
Sometimes I find the secular vs. religious debate nauseating. Sometimes I find the liberal element exaggeratedly defensivistic and overreactionary to manifestations of faith in Malta. But this time I really have my doubts. Did we really have to give State schools such a religious twist? What would have been wrong with Temi Zammit College? Even a closer look at each region’s historical connections might have produced one or two creative names. How about Wignacourt College instead of St Theresa? Or Temple College instead of St Benedict? See what I mean?
The government will argue that names of national heroes et al were chosen for the school level. As for the Colleges— God Bless them all… every one of them!
Addenda (a day later): Pity Betandwin don’t take bets like “Whether any letters will appear on the Times pages regarding the Governments’ choice of saints’ names for the new colleges”. Edward Fenech from Attard kindly obliges.