The establishment of ALPS

By GUIDO SALIBA (late), Founder-President

The question arises: “If ALPS was a dream of many decades, why did you not do something about it much earlier?” Good question … and the answer is, “The right opportunity did not arise.”

In effect, I first dreamed of ALPS while writing Alma Mater, a radio chronicle play about the foundation of the Royal University of Malta, as it was then officially known. I have always maintained that the Lyceum is the direct descendant of the Collegium Melitense, and I still do. At that time I had quite a lively discussion on the subject with a learned and holy Jesuit priest who, it later transpired, was more concerned about control of the Jesuit Church in Merchants Street, Valletta.

To cut a long story short, the opportunity to set up ALPS came several years later, when Education Minister Michael Falzon appointed me President of the Lyceum School Council. It was my ambition from the very start to work hand in hand with the Headmasters – Mr Gaetano Grech and Mr George S. Grech – to bring about a much-needed boost for the name, dignity and reputation of the Lyceum.

My son had passed the entrance examinations to both the Lyceum and St Aloysius College. At that time there was frequent adverse criticism of the Lyceum in the Press, and my wife was lecturing in English Literature and Language to Sixth-Year students of the college. Both were valid reasons, I thought, for opting for St Aloysius College for my son’s education. Still, it was very much against the grain – all the more reason why both Headmasters and I, together with the Lyceum School Council members, did our best to revive certain aspects that in the past had given the Lyceum the reputation of the best secondary school on the island. There was, of course, one big handicap – the Sixth Form had been hived off from
the Lyceum.

Some of the changes effected included the reintroduction of the old school uniform, made somewhat more modern as far as the blazer and the tie were concerned. The old school badge had to be compulsorily stitched to the blazer’s breast pocket. A monthly newsletter started being issued with news of what was happening at the Lyceum.

A Ladies’ Circle was formed to bring about better understanding between parents and the teaching staff. Mothers became an integral part of the school, as several functions for them were organised on the school premises – as well as other venues, of course. The Ladies’ Circle was instrumental in sewing new curtains for all the classrooms. Through its fundraising activities the Circle also bought and sewed velvet curtains for all windows of the Conference Room and donated a photocopier to the school. This was not only a most useful tool for the printing of notes for the students, but also yielded profits on other photocopying jobs for the administration.

The Lyceum Scouts Group was revived. As a special concession the Island Commissioner and Chief Scout acceded to my request to have the Lyceum emblem sewn on the neckerchief, which was navy blue edged with an old-gold stripe. I am glad to say that the group has gone from strength to strength and is now one of the very active groups in the Scout Movement.

Mr Wistin Attard, the art teacher, designed a very attractive tracksuit with the school colours blue and gold predominant in the design.

Under Education Minister Michael Falzon the Lyceum was physically enriched because the theatre, which had become tatty and left in a state of decay, was beautifully restored and refurbished, to the extent that it is now arguably the most up-to-date theatre in State schools. An inauguration ceremony was held on the 40th anniversary of the use of the premises of the Lyceum in Wenzu Mallia Street, Hamrun.

The institution of the 50-hour Bicycle Marathon by the School Council not only added prestige to the Lyceum but also became a source of funds, albeit modest, to local charities.

Minister Falzon was a great help in the removal, once and for all, of the storm of dust and sand from the playground, which on windy days gave the school corridors the semblance of being situated in a desert. The playground was surfaced with the sort of soft tarmac that is used for tennis courts. Apart from the football pitch the playground now also boasted a running track.

I would like to make it clear that my choice of another school for my son was not a reflection on the ability or dedication of the teaching staff. The status and image of the Lyceum at the time was such as not to encourage real motivation in either the teachers – whose status was unfortunately downgraded from that of Masters – or the students. With the reforms and changes mentioned above everybody felt that they had to pull their weight and make everyone concerned with the Lyceum proud that it had resumed its former ethos, namely the premiership of State secondary schools.

My position as President of the School Council, infused with a new sense of pride in the revamped school, prompted me to try and make my decades-old dream come true. The opportunity was now better than ever. Early in 1994, in my regular column “Once Upon a Dream” in The Sunday Times, I expressed the wish to establish the Association of Lyceum Past Students. There had been a number of similar attempts in the past, but they had fizzled out.

The idea immediately produced a surge of interest. The Foundation Meeting was held on 20th March 1994 and a steering committee was set up to draft a statute, which was eventually mailed to all those who had shown interest.

One focal point of the statute provided for a number of commissions to make the Association a very active one throughout the year and in various spheres of the social life of Lyceum students past and present, and of the community at large.

The first activity of the steering committee, in May 1994, was to pay a courtesy visit to President Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, himself a Lyceum Past Student, who immediately accepted to become the first Patron of the Association and promised his full support.

The first General Assembly of ALPS was held on 2nd October 1994.