By Latoya Giles
Classes at the University of Guyana are expected to be suspended until further notice as plans are apace for mass protest today at the Turkeyen Campus. Yesterday the leading figures in “Operation Rescue UG” which comprises students, workers and academics, spoke to a packed audience in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre yesterday, outlining a series of issues which they are fighting for.
The purpose of the meeting was to urge the UG community to come out in support of the closing down of the University until the demands of staff and students are met. These demands include contract renewal for Freddie Kissoon and Vincent Alexander.
Duane Edwards, President of the students’ union, told the gathering that so far the students at UG have been disappointing in that they have failed to protest the appalling conditions at UG. He urged them that the time is now right to fix all the wrongs that have been done to them.
Edwards called on them to look to their conscience and be morally forthright in fighting for the rights of Freddie Kissoon and Vincent Alexander at the Turkeyen campus.
Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon explained that throughout history, the young has changed civilization for the better. He said that the young have the passion and purpose and as such he called on the youths to participate in changing UG by protesting.
Kissoon exclaimed to loud applauses; “We are closing down this university.” Describing what happened on Friday, the opposition raised his dismissal with Jagdeo and his team in the tripartite talks, and he remarked that the Government’s nonsense must be stopped. He explained that President Ramotar told the opposition that they cannot ask him for answer because it was a UG matter and they must ask UG Councilors.
Kissoon said that when Councilor Gail Texieira was called upon for ban explanation, she refused, only to say that she cannot divulge UG Council deliberations because they are confidential. Kissoon further stated that when Texeira argued for his contract termination when asked what will happen to the students, she said that was a problem for UG administration to fix.
“Gail Teixeira, said that she holds a Canadian passport while her two daughters were educated at York University,” Kissoon said.
Senior academic Dr. Patsy Francis, called on students to let their voices be heard on the deteriorating situation at UG. She pointed to the holes in the roof of the George Walcott Lecture Theatre and told them that they have to sit in classes while it rains on their heads.
She remarked that she recently came back from Barbados where her salary was far higher than what she got at UG.
Meanwhile, the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), the University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS) and the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) in a press statement yesterday condemned the recent decision of the University Council to terminate the full time, temporary contracts of several university lecturers.
The termination of Mr. Frederick Kissoon’s contract with the specific caveat that he must not be reemployed in any capacity (either full time, part time or temporary) is particularly troubling as it has all the appearances of political victimization for his outspoken criticisms of successive PPP Governments.
They said that they reject the interference of the Council in the academic affairs of the University and insist that departments and faculties are best positioned to determine staffing needs. We will therefore not allow the Council to determine who departments employ as academic staff. We demand that the termination letters be withdrawn and all lecturers concerned be allowed to fulfill their original contracts.
Apart from the violation of proper labour procedures, the terminations of these seasoned, qualified academics will also have deleterious effects on students who are already faced with insufficient and inadequately trained lecturers.
UGWU, UGSSA and UGSS are also deeply concerned about the lack of transparency, lack of accountability and apparent bias displayed by government representatives on the University Council in arriving at the decision to advertise the position of Registrar.
Notwithstanding University regulations that require the advertisement of the positions of Director of Berbice Campus and Bursar, the Council employed a performance-based mechanism to recently reappoint Mr. Daizal Samad as Director of Berbice Campus and Mr. John Seeram as Bursar.
The motivation therefore behind the decision to advertise the position of Registrar, held by prominent opposition member Vincent Alexander, is viewed with suspicion. The Council is cautioned that the disparate treatment of the three cases has understandably roused fears of ethnic and political discrimination and we urge the Council to function in accordance with principles of transparency and parity. Our position is that either all the positions are advertised then filled or all are filled on the basis of a performance evaluation. Anything less is unacceptable and will be resisted.
UGWU, UGSSA and UGSS are also greatly concerned about the working conditions for all categories of staff and quality of education received by students. Salaries and emoluments are grossly inadequate, way below comparable levels at regional universities and in the public and private sectors in Guyana.
Offices lack basic equipment and the physical facilities used to instruct students, particularly in the science and technical faculties are not only inadequate but also dangerous and place the lives of staff and students in jeopardy.
Staff members and students are demotivated and demoralized. “We are therefore concerned that the World Bank negotiated loan to rehabilitate those faculties involved in Science and Technology has not yet been signed.”
It is inconceivable that monies available for the enhancement of student’s welfare are in danger of being lost to the institution and we urge the Government to immediately move the process forward so that the University can be enhanced.
UGSSA, UGSS and UGWU are prepared to immediate take all legal and industrial measures to restore academic and administrative order at the University of Guyana. “While we intend to fully resist political interference and victimization, we are prepared to work with all stakeholders, including the Government, the Administration and the Council to secure better working conditions for all categories of staff and better quality education for our students.”
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