On Maldivian Students' Association...

I got elected into the Central Committee (2006) for the Maldivian Students' Association (UK) beginning of this year. It does come with a bit of work load, especially since the MSA website comes under my care now. I am working on revamping the site soon in an concerted effort to make it more useful for prospective and current Maldivian students in the UK, after all, the website acts as the center of communication for MSA activity. I am also trying to push for changes and activities that I think will help towards making MSA a real success story.

Quite a few seem to view MSA as a redundant establishment; as just another front of influence by our beloved government. It may be or may not be the case, however, what I do know is that it is a tool that can be manipulated for achieving good. There are a lot of difficulties the students face here. Everything from getting visa to finding accommodation has obstacles and difficulties littered along the way. Students are now required to spend about 2 weeks in Colombo in order to get a student visa for entry into UK. What the government has done to alleviate this hassle is not known by many - including the Minister of Education who recently visited the UK and met the students. The lovely Minister informed us all that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been asked and hasn't responded on the matter. So, hello Mr. Foreign Ministry and hello Ms. Education: can you please get these things sorted out before the world expires? I can understand there are more pressing matters which is precisely why I understandingly said "before the world expires" - that should give ample time, I hope.

There are a lot of areas that MSA can make itself useful. For example, new students are often fresh off the sandy beaches and are parting the safety net of family and friends for the first time. Thus, as can be expected, quite a few of the students also have to battle with the differences in culture. Apart from handling the silent but nonetheless prevalent racist attitudes, students also have to digest and find a solution to having a good time with the fellow British colleagues who on routine finish up day at university and then retire to alcohol for solace. In addition to obvious culture shocks, most of the students coming have never lived alone, never cooked, never managed a budgeted life etc. A student association can definitely help in preparing and offering help to students to settling in - from buying utensils, books, clothes and other gear to hunting for food and whipping up healthy, edible concoctions. It would do great benefit to build and maintain a healthy support group for all students, new and old. I know a bit too many students who freaked out at the behest of the world separating them from their loved ones. Not all who arrive have family/friends already in the UK to call and ask for help when needed. A familiar face, a familiar story and a familiar language does seem to go a long way in offering comfort. The MSA can facilitate a lot for the experienced students too. Part-time jobs, internships, holiday work and scholarships can all be facilitated by MSA. These are little things of importance that the association can achieve and should strive to offer.

By now, a few of you would probably jump up and say "but MSA is only a tiny student body run by students - in their own time". Yes! So what?s MSA to do? Organize yearly meetings and leech money from whoever would be kind enough to spare a few cash notes to be put into the good use of arranging "bilehmeerukohlevvun" as we Maldivians are so used to back home? A glance at the MSA constitution shows many an objective proudly listed. If there is a constitution outlining a modus operandi and goals to achieve, then it should be followed otherwise the objectives might as well all be replaced by the single word "naacharangy".

Lastly, I must note an interesting development this year. The government (Maldivian of course!) has "blessed" the MSA with the responsibilities of managing 9 Rosemont Avenue- a government owned house used for Maldivian student boarding and as an MSA activity hub. There hasn?t been proper (if any at all) maintenance done over the years, leaving the house in utterly poor conditions. The house is truly in an unholy mess. I sympathize with the students living there. Of course, all of this is justified by giving out the rooms in the house at a discounted rate. However, is that enough when the house breaks several UK housing rules? It doesn't even adhere to the fire and safety regulations. Jeez! Many students have raised their concerns over the matter and as everything political everywhere, a committee was created to "investigate". The committee has now compiled a report along with a prioritized list of renovations that would hopefully make the building decently habitable. This is all fine and dandy, but the funds for renovations has to be obtained from the government. Hopefully, there will be no difficulty this time, just as the Minister promised.

Now that vented out a few (MSA) things on my mind, I must say that I hope this year will be a very productive year for the association and the student community. ;-)


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