On Friday 19th January 2024 our school community was privileged to host Dr Roberta Metsola, European Parliament President, at a special assembly. We were particularly keen to welcome Dr Metsola back to school to rekindle school day memories and invite her to share her life journey since 1995, when she left St Joseph School Sliema. And what a journey it has been – from a tiny school in a tiny town, from the smallest EU nation state, to the youngest president of the European Parliament and a woman to boot – in an overwhelmingly male setting. We are grateful Dr Metsola found time for our school community in her very hectic schedule.
Dr Metsola was welcomed to school by Sr Riches Grech, Ms Clarissa Fleri Soler and Ms Ruth Calleja, together with the rest of the senior leadership team and student leadership team. The school guides’ company formed a guard of honour down the school avenue, while all educators and students gave Dr Metsola a warm welcome on her arrival in the school auditorium.
We wished to highlight the importance we give to teamwork and leadership in school, and our Student Council, Ekoskola Committee and Student Leadership Team were asked to put forward the topics for discussion. Betta Galea, from Senior 1A, asked for advice on bringing about change for a more environmentally sustainable Malta, given our school’s very urban setting. Ella Galea, Student Council member in Senior 5B, asked about the challenges Dr Metsola faced as a female politician, and what the EU is doing to narrow the gap between men and women, while Head Girl Katia Brincat asked Dr Metsola about risk-taking in her career.
Dr Metsola addressed all these issues with warmth, candour and humility, describing her journey as a young student activist who believed in EU accession and worked hard for it, her studies and involvement in politics, the disappointments and failures, the highlights and successes as a young mother on the campaign trail. She urged our girls to involve themselves and voice their opinions, “If you believe in a cause, if you believe in something you want to achieve, nothing should stop you. Join organisations, NGOs. Participate in the democratic process. If you don’t, others will.” Sustainability and better urban environments are high on the EU agenda, and she advised the girls to share what they learnt in school with their families at home, working on sustainability in the small practices too. Dr Metsola also highlighted opportunities the EU offered, including studying and training abroad through Erasmus +, urging all present to take on these opportunities. On the question of women in politics and public life, she touched on legislation to curb domestic violence, the need to create safe online spaces for women, and encouraged our girls to persist in their wish to challenge inequality.
With some moments to go, Julia Ana Bonello in Senior 1A asked a ‘bonus’ question – Did Dr Metsola always want to be a politician? And the answer was no – she had dreamt of being a film director in her younger school days!
Our special assembly drew to a close with a signing of our school guest book and a quick visit to the staff room for an informal visit with educators, including former teachers and class friends.
This visit was memorable in many ways, and we wish Dr Metsola the best. Long may she continue to Believe & Achieve.
Photo credits: Ms Elizabeth Dimech Ghirxi & Mr Franco Camilleri