Minister Dr. Desrey Fox succumbs
The political fraternity was left in shock yesterday, after Minister within the Ministry of Education, Dr. Desrey Fox, died. The Minister passed away shortly after 03:00hrs yesterday morning while she was still receiving medical attention at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Fox was a victim in an accident on December 8 at the junction of J.B Singh Public Road and Thomas Road, involving her motor vehicle, PKK 8875, and an ambulance.
At the time of the accident, the ambulance was responding to an emergency call that a man had fallen off a scaffold at Victoria, East Coast Demerara.
A post mortem conducted yesterday morning, showed that the Minister died from multiple injuries which she sustained in the accident.
One source said that the minister’s body was “pretty bruised”. The source also explained that the woman was diabetic and that could have contributed to her death.
After the post mortem was concluded, the Minister’s body was embalmed and taken to the Merriman’s Funeral Home.
Relatives and Government officials gathered at the hospital as the news about the Minister’s death spread.
Minister of Public Service, Jennifer Westford, who was at the Georgetown Public Hospital yesterday morning, expressed sincere condolences to the Minister’s family.
She said that the Minister would always be remembered for the dedication showed towards her job.
Minister Fox’s relatives who were present at the mortuary did not want to comment on the matter, stating “that the entire family is grief stricken”.
One relative said that they never thought she would have died because she was showing signs of improvement.
Meanwhile, this newspaper understands that the driver of the ambulance has been suspended pending an investigation.
When this newspaper contacted sources close to the driver they said that he had given a statement to the police about the accident. The source went on to say that the driver is “just going through the channels and that he is hoping for the best”.
He is also seeking the services of a lawyer to get proper advice about the matter.
Gregory Douglas, the driver of Apache taxi, HB4065, had said that he heard the siren coming and he stopped. He recalled that he had the green light and remained stationary to allow the ambulance to pass. “But the other car (the Minister’s) turned and was crossing and the ambulance slammed into it and it spin and crash into my car,” he said. Details about the Minister’s funeral are still to be made public.
Who was Minister Desrey Fox ?
Dr. Desrey Fox was no ordinary Amerindian woman. The mere fact that she holds a doctorate from Rice University, the so-called Harvard of America’s south, sets her apart.
Dr Fox was a virtual reservoir of knowledge on Amerindian languages and culture, including the dreaded Kanaima.
She studied the Kanaima for her Masters dissertation while at the University of Kent at Canterbury, in the United Kingdom.
Dr Fox’s tremendous accomplishments did not come about by chance; she achieved what she had by sheer hard work, dedication, and an innate desire to assert her true identity – her identity as an Akawaio woman.
The Minister was born Desrey Clementine Caesar on January 2, 1955, to parents Gibson and Anita Caesar at Waramadong, a community of Akawaio Amerindians in the Upper Mazaruni River.
After completing her primary education, Fox was sent to Georgetown to attend Secondary School in Georgetown, but her parents soon found out they could not afford it. So after just two terms, she was back in Waramadong.
As luck would have it, teachers from the coastland, came to the village and tutored the children, preparing them to write the GCE Exams.
With her family helping to raise the funds, she travelled to Georgetown to write the exams. She succeeded in three of five subjects she wrote.
The Minister later moved on to the General Nursing Council to pursue studies in rural midwifery. She topped the Upper Mazaruni in those exams and took up a posting at the hospital.
Minister Fox became one of the founding members of the Amerindian Language Project at the University of Guyana, now called the Amerindian Research Unit.
Fox spent 29 years at the Amerindian Affairs Unit – the longest serving – and over time became instrumental in the publishing of many publications on Amerindian language and culture.
She also played a lead role in the publication of dictionaries on Amerindian languages, which are now being reprinted by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.
During her time as a researcher, she had helped produce the radio programme ‘Focus on Amerindians,” which she said for the first time introduced Guyanese to the Amerindians, and indeed to the geography of the country.
She went on to pursue a degree in Sociology at the University of Guyana, and she won the Dennis Irving Prize award from the University.
In 1996, Fox won a European Union scholarship to read for Master of Arts in Environmental Anthropology at the University of Kent at Canterbury. For her Masters dissertation, she decided to study the age-old tale of the Kanaimas.
In 1998, a chance encounter with a group of Ph.D. students from Rice University, would catapult Fox to becoming the country’s only Amerindian woman with a doctorate.
Fox received a call from a professor at Rice University and was shortlisted for a Ph.D. scholarship with Rice University for a seven year programme. But she didn’t have a Masters in linguistics. But after a series of interviews, she qualified.
Enjoying an elite life at Rice, Fox had time for introspection.
She had excelled at Rice and was made president of the University’s Graduate School. In 2000, she won the Robert Lowery Pattern Prize from her University. In 2001, she won the “Who’s Who among students in American University Award” from Rice. That same year, she also won Rice University’s Women’s Impact Award. In 2002, she was the recipient of the Post-Doctoral National Science Foundation Grant to complete her studies at Rice University.
But even though she excelled academically, she still engaged in sports. At University, the Minister trained with the male power lifting team.
Over time, she became the Co-ordinator of the Amerindian Affairs Unit and also Curator of the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology in Georgetown. Some of Fox’s selected works include: “The Indigenous Condition in Guyana: A Situational Analysis of the Mabura Great Falls Community”, University of Guyana, Co-authored with Professor George K. Danns; “Caught within the Cracks: the case of the Amerindian Women of Guyana,” published in Polygloth, USA; “Zauro’no dok Akawaio Yau: Variants of Akawaio spoken in the village of Waramadong,” Ph.D thesis, Rice University; “Body Metaphors in Akawaio House Construction,” published in the Journal of Anthropology, USA.
Because of her strong track record, Dr Fox had been chosen to be Minister within the Ministry of Education when President Bharrat Jagdeo formulated his new Cabinet after the 2006 elections.
Dr Fox had always remained grateful to all those who had helped her to achieve her goals.