The emphasis being placed on education by APNU’s Presidential candidate, David Granger, is of the absolute importance given our present economic and social predicament. Quality education is both essential and critical to Guyana’s future.
Further, in placing particular emphasis on the University of Guyana, Granger has identified a major strategic locus that can impact most positively on every area and sector of development.
In a one-university nation like Guyana, it is most likely that the university by virtue of its status and multi-faceted relationships, has the potential to influence the other levels of the education system, and hence the entire Guyanese society.
This institution, if properly nurtured, has the potential to develop into the paramount engine of economic and social development. All 83,000 square miles of Guyana’s territory, therefore, must be regarded as the university campus.
If permitted to develop into a ‘first class’ national institution, as it should have been after 50 years of existence, then appropriate and adequate inputs into the institution would have a multiplying effect and result in the maximization of impact.
The Act establishing the University of Guyana (Act # 6 of 1963 amended by 5 of 1965, 0.14/1965), states the following purpose: “…to provide a place of education, learning and research of the highest standard required and expected of a university of the highest standard and to secure the advancement of knowledge and the diffusion of the arts and sciences and learning throughout Guyana (University of Guyana 1965, p.8.).
It is obvious that the university was expected to become the centre for educating and training a large number of Guyanese and one that would undertake research into the problems that confronted the nation.
From the university would emerge the highly qualified personnel for the public service, teachers for the schools, the scientists, the technologists, and technicians for the national development programmes.
Moreover, it was intended that “…the University of Guyana would provide a focus for the intellectual life of the community and a place where the merit of particular solutions to Guyana’s problems may be tested by argument and experiment” (University of Guyana, 1965, p.3.).
At this stage of Guyana’s quest for a better quality of life for all Guyanese, the University of Guyana ought to have had both the capacity and capability to define the various options available in development strategies, to point out their probable consequences, and to make society more aware of the problems involved.
Ever since the closing decades of the 20th century, all available evidence suggested that regardless of the approach used to assess the organizational effectiveness of the University of Guyana, it was not a well-functioning university, nor was it an effective instrument for national development (Perry.1985).
Today, some 25 years later, the situation is infinitely worse. There is a crisis of epic proportions in education in Guyana. This crisis is characterized by a growing mal-adjustment or disconnect between our ‘inherited school system’ and the rapidly changing environmental and learning needs of Guyana and Guyanese.
This crisis will become increasingly worse if strong corrective measures, including radical changes in our traditional educational thinking, structures and practices, are not put in place at the earliest opportunity.
When intelligent elected leaders and policy makers have been made acutely aware of the critical problems constraining Guyana’s economic and social development, we would expect them to mobilize their ingenuity and determination in an effort to circumvent these problems by altering current thinking and organizational practices that are creating them.
The fact that after 46 years of managing the affairs of Guyana they have not yet done so, begs the question. A change is long overdue. New and more sophisticated thinking is required if Guyanese are to be rescued from the socio-economic backwaters and quicksand in which we find ourselves.
We must become unreservedly committed to the truism: “What we want our nation to be, we must first put in our schools”. If we wish to reap oranges, we have got to plant orange seeds. We can never, ever, plant lime seeds and hope to reap oranges!
Clarence O. Perry
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