Argentina's Patagonia’s National University of San Juan Bosco (UNPSJB), based in Chubut province, officially introduced on Tuesday an academic scholarship program geared toward Falklands/Malvinas residents, and during a panel presided by Malvinas Affairs Secretary Daniel Filmus, Argentina's Under-Secretary of University Policies Laura Alonso and the university’s chief Alberto Ayape.
“Today we are building a bridge with an initiative that fills us with pride,” Filmus said at the university’s headquarters in Comodoro Rivadavia.
The program will offer 10 scholarships to Falklands/Malvinas residents that will include free flights between the Islands and Argentina, a stipend and the possibility of lodging in a university residence. This will allow Islanders to study university and post-graduate degrees on the Argentine continental shelf.
According to the reports the UNPSJB put together the program in collaboration with Argentina's Education and Foreign Affairs ministries.
It all looks like a replay of that eighties film Back to the future, only this time the script was most probably masterminded by Argentine born Pope Francis, who among other things is one of the very few people in Argentina that can manage to influence and change President Cristina Fernandez mind and determination, and why not obsession.
If the scholarships' initiaitve is true and effective, it means an 180 degrees policy change in the Malvinas question approach, (certainly not the ultimate objective), since seduction now seems to replace the determination to strangle the Falklands' economy by any and all means, calling Falkland Islanders a 'non people' and using President Cristina Fernandez own words, 'squtters' or poking fun before the United Nations when the Falkland Islanders overwhelmingly in a referendum with all guarantees said they were very happy to continue as a British Overseas Territory.
Nevertheless to recognize the gentle touch and shift of the Argentina pontiff's hand, Filmus at the presentation recalled that in the beginning of the seventies (when he was a first generation Argentine teenager), dozens of Falklands/Malvinas’ youngsters were offered scholarships and had studied on the Argentine mainland.
In effect, in 1971 Argentina signed an agreement with the United Kingdom allowing it to offer different programs and services to the Falkland Islanders in the health, labour and education sectors. At the beginning of the program five scholarships were offered, expanding to 10 in 1972, and then 30 in 1974.
“When there was dialogue and negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom, our country collaborated and had a presence in the Malvinas,” said the Kirchnerite official.
The scholarship program has been named after Thomas Bridges, an Anglican Missionary who lived in Malvinas and Ushuaia in the 20th century, where he worked with the Yamana indigenous groups based in Tierra del Fuego.
The Thomas Bridge scholarships are available to those Falklands' students who have completed high school.
“The scholarships that are being offered now are in the spirit of Bridges and all the Argentine teachers who travelled to the Malvinas to teach Spanish. I hope that we can learn a lot from the Islands’ residents and that they can get to know us,” said Filmus, a former Education minister.
Finally it must not be forgotten that only a week ago there was an unexpected, surprise, anticipation incident (¿?), in the Vatican square when Pope Francis held a poster, saying Time for Malvinas dialogue between Argentine and the UK, while his spokesperson 'Pinocchio' Benedettini downplayed the picture released to the world.
“The Holy Father did not even realize he had this object in his hands. He has discovered this just now after seeing the photograph”, said the poor copy of Pinocchio at the time. “The picture was taken out of context during the general audience when many people give items to the Holy Father”.