-lecturers plan “sit-in” today
Pull quote: “We are teaching people virtually. We need about $3m to get the research centre together, our issues are so large and the government is refusing to sign over the $10m loan to the university….they want us to provide substandard education and we are not going to do that. Enough is Enough” – Dr. Pasty Francis
By Latoya Giles
Students who turned up at the University of Guyana (UG) yesterday for classes were confronted with padlocked classrooms and lecturers missing as “Operation Rescue UG” intensified.
Yesterday padlocks were seen on the doors of the George Walcott Lecture Theatre, the Small Lecture Theatre, along with the ‘Stables’ classrooms. A few of the classes which were opened had no lecturers. Staffers and Faculty members are contending that there will be no classes until their demands are met, which include contract renewals for Freddie Kissoon and Vincent Alexander, and better working conditions.
Senior academic Dr. Patsy Francis yesterday told the media that they intend to “ramp up their efforts” as they are preparing for a “sit-in” today. She said that students can come up to the University, but lecturers would not be teaching and they would be “sitting in”. She noted that the issue was not entirely about Freddie Kissoon, but four other lecturers whose contracts were terminated. Francis said that they would continue to push through until the contracts are restored for each lecturer.
Francis said if persons are to look at the University of Guyana when it rains, the main lecture theatre is flooded and the roof is leaking. She said that the labs are in a worse state, since there is not proper equipment or chemicals.
“We are teaching people virtually….we need about $3m to get the research centre together, our issues are so large and the government is refusing to sign over the $10m loan to the university….they want us to provide substandard education and we are not going to that,” Dr Francis stated emphatically.
With regard to the letters that were sent out on Monday, she said no one has responded. She said that they intend to contact the requisite persons to see what would be their position. They are also awaiting word from Professor Compton Bourne. Francis insisted that students should not go to classes and should stand up for their rights.
“Your classrooms are leaking….the people in Health Sciences don’t have proper microscopes, what kind of doctors are we making,” Dr Francis stated quizzically. She said that she cannot comprehend how the government can allow the only place of higher learning in Guyana to not have proper resources. She insisted that the government cannot allow “poor people’s children” to be exposed to this type of education.
And tempers flared when some of the committee members had an exchange of words with council member Indra Chandarpal. Chandarpal said that a majority of times she works on the board she would work for free, adding that she is a representative of her party but works in the interest of UG.
When posed with questions about the conditions in classrooms, Chandarpal said that it’s all up to the administration. She said that these things are not up to the government, but to management. She stressed that it is the administration that has to fix the roof. She noted that even after monies are put into UG that still may not be enough.
On Monday, the committee met and decided that they would be closing down the University until the demands of staff and students are met. Duane Edwards, President of the students’ union, stated that so far the students 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 students to look to their conscience and be morally forthright in fighting for the rights of Freddie Kissoon and Vincent Alexander at the Turkeyen campus.
The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association said that “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”.
The association said that it rejects the interference of the Council in the academic affairs of the University and insists that departments and faculties are best positioned to determine staffing needs. According to the body, it 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”.
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