By Latoya Giles
History was made yesterday at the University of Guyana, as the four contending Presidential Candidates for the 2011 General and Regional Elections went on a platform to discuss their plans if elected. The forum was organized by the university’s Department of Government and International Affairs.
The George Walcott Lecture Theatre was filled to capacity as students and faculty workers came out in their numbers.
Each candidate was allowed 15miniutes to discuss an issue (s) of their choice. After all the candidates had completed their presentation, students and faculty members were allowed one question to any candidate.
The students heard about plans for the University of Guyana and the education sector, high rate of student failures and school dropouts and plans to reverse the trend, general reforms, and salary improvements from the main presidential candidates. From the PPPC Presidential candidate they heard of the jump in salary from $18,000 per month in 1992 to $165,000 per month today.
First to take the podium was the APNU Presidential Candidate, David Granger, who was greeted with a spontaneous outburst by the university society.
Granger, who focused mainly on the education system, highlighted that throughout human history education has become a race between education and catastrophe.
Education, he said, is the backbone of any country and for national development, calling it the mother of empowerment and the mother of economic growth, “its the mother of any developing country.”
Today, after 19 years of the PPP/C in office, Granger said, the ruling party has damaged the education system.
“They continue to damage the system today; they have endangered your future, and the system is in a mess,” Granger posited.
Quoting statistics, Granger said that an average of 600 children drop out of school each month; while another 12,000 who wrote the Grade Six Examination failed in all four of the subjects.
Some 70 percent of the secondary schools students have failed in both Mathematics and English, Granger said.
He further lashed out and said that some 40 percent of students in the Grade Two and Four could not read and write properly.
According to Granger, about 40 percent of Nursery and Primary school teachers are under qualified and four out of five university graduates have migrated.
“Shall we give the PPP/C another 19 years?…No way no way!”
He said that Government has always been dissatisfied with the manner in which the University is administered and today some still exists.
He said that the government has blamed the academics for the complications at UG, who more often see things differently as against those who formulate policies.
They filled the board with their stalwarts and yet they blame the academics, Granger said. APNU has joined with ten parties and have come to move the PPP out of office, Granger declared.
He said that the party is committed above all of giving students a good future, with its emphasis on education.
“We want to make Guyana an education nation again; we will guarantee your future. The solution is not to control everything, but to ensure that the University gets what it needs so you get what you deserve.
“More money will be given to support teachers and lectures. Teachers and lectures would be the best paid public servants, plus longer tenures for lectures.”
Granger said that students are concerned most about their fees.
He said that the best thing about repaying loans is getting jobs when you leave the University.
“No more mediocre jobs, but jobs will be there that suit your qualifications. The library would be definitely revamped, better laboratories, we intend to have scientists taught at the university.
He said that APNU intends to reverse the trend of migration if elected, because the salaries would be good. He said that the party would not hold back development because of an impaired education system.
Presidential Candidate for the TUF, Peter Persaud, took to the podium and lashed out at the APNU candidate.
Persaud spoke about the ballot boxes that went missing in 1973 elections, neglecting to say what his party would do in the education sector, and what it would do for the University of elected.
During Persaud’s presentation the PPPC presidential, candidate Donald Ramotar who was hoarse and apparently very hot, got up to reposition the floor fan.
The crowd went wild; students began roaring “AC, AC”.
Khemraj Ramjattan attracted the support from a segment of the crowd. He spoke about Education Reform, Civil Reform and developing a Hinterland Programme.
According to Ramjattan, since the present government took office, corruption, policing and security and money laundering have all gone up.
He said that Guyana currently has one of the most terrible track records in theses areas.
“If we ain’t…ranking last…we ranking second to last or third last…in this regard.” He said that Guyana is in a degenerate political state of affair.
He said that impoverishment that each ethnic part feels, is evident. He said that the AFC has a better vision for tomorrow and to bring that vision we have to bring reform to the various sectors.
Ramjattan said that if elected they would bring in the British and Americans to help.
The last candidate to speak was the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic Donald Ramotar. He said that the university has produced a number of well achieving Guyanese.
“I want to remind them about the economy that was present when they took office and compare it to what it is presently.”
Ramotar said that Guyana’s Economy, is far ahead of other Caribbean nations economies. He said that the economy has grown every year since the PPP took office in 1992.
At the University of Guyana in 1992, a lecture one was getting $18,000 per month; today he or she gets a $165,000 per month.
He said that energy is going be an important fact, once the PPP is re-elected. He said that the party has started and are working towards making Guyana an “energy state”.
According to Ramotar if this is done, this would help keep the university society in Guyana.
Ramotar further told the crowd that the government was investigating solar power and wind power. He said that this would give the country the possibility of giving Guyana a larger production sector.
“The world now has seven billion people….. That’s seven billion mouths to feed….people are looking for land to produce Bio-Fuel…We have land…we have fresh water and the power. ..we can seek to take advantage of the high prices of food…We will diversify, from producing sugar and rice,” Ramotar declared.
As Ramotar’s 15 mins was up, students lined up in the aisles with their question in hand for the candidates.
There was a little confusion in this aspect of the forum. A number of persons thought that the university should have either picked the persons who were to ask questions and to have the questions in hand.
Only three questions were allowed, since according to the moderator time constraints prevented a continuation.
The decision was met with disapproval from the crowd.
Faculty member Kadsai Ceres, thanked all the candidates for taking time to facilitate the historic forum.
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