Feb 28, 2012 Letters
I refer to Dr. Seelochan Beharry’s letter in the Kaieteur News of February 26, 2012.
Let me say from the outset how restricted I feel sometimes in my role as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, largely due to the archaic statutory regulations that confront UG. Nevertheless, I am not a quitter.
I returned to this country to serve, knowing full well the prevailing circumstances of resource-constrained societies. But there are some callous realities with which the administration of UG has to contend, and the Pro-Chancellor is not part of the administration in terms of the day-to-day management of UG.
I have no statutory jurisdiction over the Vice Chancellor who controls the administration. Dr. Beharry seems to be unaware of these micro-realities that engage both the administration and University Council.
I must say that when I became Pro-Chancellor of UG and saw some of Dr. Beharry’s pieces in the media, I thought here is a guy who is committed to overcoming some of the challenges at UG. I still do believe the situation has not changed. Of recent times, nevertheless, I believe some of his media inputs, while still expressing concerns and commitment to UG, are grossly irrelevant and perhaps difficult to comprehend within the changing context of Guyana.
There are some harsh realities we face in Guyana and UG in terms of effecting change that requires more than the media rhetoric.
At the onset, knowing the gains UG could derive from the Guyana Diaspora, I initiated contacts with a good number of Diaspora colleagues who continue to make productive suggestions and material inputs to UG.
Currently, a British University has indicated an interest in having a science and technology engagement with UG, and at no cost to UG. There have been several such engagements over the years.
One of Dr. Beharry’s recurring themes about UG is the decrepit state of laboratory facilities.
He is correct and I welcome his suggestions. But you do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that those facilities have deteriorated to unacceptable levels. It is one of the reasons that the Government of Guyana negotiated the World Bank loan.
Perhaps, Dr. Beharry is aware that such type of loan takes a few years to reach approval point. At any rate, I do share his concerns, and like him, I would really want to see a brand new science laboratory at UG tomorrow, among other things that should be brand new.
And we should keep in mind that most public universities today face the challenge of managing with reduced budgets. It is clear to me that the Government’s annual subvention cannot remedy the ‘laboratory’ fiasco and resolve other problems in a jiffy, as the purpose of that subvention is largely for recurrent expenditures.
And even increased governmental funding within the context of competition for its funding from other agencies, will merely strengthen the recurrent expenditure base, given the huge capital budgetary requirements of other areas of equal concern as, library collections, physical infrastructure, staff development, student retention, promotion, tenure, cadaver laboratory, quality assurance, and accreditation issues. UG needs a huge capital funding.
The World Bank loan, hopefully, would remedy several deficiencies, but that loan is not the panacea for the myriad of problems prevailing at UG, requiring capital funding for their resolution. UG has to secure high levels of capital-type funding elsewhere, traversing a similar path as that of the World Bank loan.
I am sure that Dr. Beharry will be pleased with what the US$10 millionWorld Bank loan may deliver. The World Bank loan has three components as follows:
· to produce a renaissance in the science curriculum, oriented toward the significant needs of the LCDS;
· to support basic research, in order to advance knowledge on environmental conservation and biodiversity preservation.
· to enhance existing laboratory facilities and infrastructure of four faculties using 14 buildings and enhancing campus-wide drainage;
· to provide the existing laboratories with essential scientific and multimedia equipment to advance science education and research;
· to install campus-wide internet network.
· to enhance facilities management;
· to craft strategic institutional decisions and assist with financial support.
Let me say something now about the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Grant to highlight another development at the University. With respect to the current institutional structure of the university, efforts are underway to transform the archaic institutional mechanisms of the university, in order to promote efficient administration analogous to that of contemporary universities.
In this regard, the CDB approved a grant of US$250,000 (83%) with UG matching this funding with US$50,000 (17%), to guide the rehabilitation of the regulatory and operational framework of the institution.
The expected outputs from this project include presenting recommendations on a relevant regulatory framework, a resource mobilization plan, a change management program, and corporate systems and operational procedures.
Through the public tendering process, a consultant was selected, and the project will commence imminently. We are all committed to review the recommendations with the view to implementation.
Nonetheless, there are some other doable things that are being effected on a day-to-day basis, and must continue. I should add that UG’s Office of Resource and Mobilization clearly has to become more pro-active to strengthen the University’s capital funding base. Perhaps, we need a unit devoted to enhancing capital development.
Look, Dr. Beharry, undoubtedly, has many useful suggestions to upgrade this University, and we sincerely welcome him on board to input this difficult change process.
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