Mar 16, 2013 Letters Comments Off on The University of Guyana must come to terms with the society it serves
I am responding to comments reportedly made by Prof. Jacob Opadeyi, the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor (VC), University of Guyana (UG), captioned “Higher tuition fees a must for quality education” (SN March 8, 2013), and by Dr Luncheon: “Renewed discussion on UG tuition hike could prompt Cabinet decision” KN March 15, 2013.
With all due respect, I would urge the new VC to make every effort not only to become familiar with the local terrain, but also to understand as much of the sociology of Guyana’s group (class/ethnic) dynamics at the earliest.
He must be on the alert for he will encounter charlatans, Greeks bearing gifts, poseurs, sycophants, and even “Les femmes fatales”. Or, he may yet rue the day he accepted this assignment.
The VC will discover that Guyanese society has been rent asunder by the intense rivalry between our two major ethnic groups, as to who should inherit the power previously exercised by our former colonial masters, and how this power is to be exercised.
Further, he will also discover that Guyanese society is characterized by several categories of imbalances. Of even greater significance to him, will be the absence of any semblance of a national consensus with regard to values, purposes and goals.
Given the above context, the big question is: “What role will the university he leads play in Guyana’s development, and in the building of a nation of one people with a common destiny?” Under the term development, I include concerns about social conditions and the quality of life, as well as the traditional preoccupation with economic growth.
The administration (and would-be social engineers with their hidden agendas), may desire higher tuition fees, but given the already fractured nature of the Guyanese society, and the rapidly widening income chasm between “the new elite” (haves), and “the working poor” (have-nots), are higher tuition fees really desirable by existing public criteria? Or, is this how higher education will now be used to eradicate poverty, and to improve the quality of life for the working class?
Is the Guyanese public being asked to believe that increased tuition is the paramount priority at UG? No, this must not be the way. There are several other more desirable ways in which UG can conserve by reorganizing, restructuring, be made leaner, efficient and more effective in enhancing its endowment, and in garnering income, while at the same time making the work and outcomes of the institution more relevant to environmental needs.
Guyanese must never forget what this government did in 2007 to the Critchlow Labour College, an institution that provided a second chance to late developers, and opportunities for tax-paying workers who were desirable of continuing and upgrading their education. Government withdrew all financial assistance from this working class institution!
The University of Guyana urgently needs to come to terms with the society it serves!
This is not only “common sense” par excellence, but it is, by far, the better way. The Guyanese people in general, and the university community in particular have had to endure far too much, far too long.
At this stage of the nation’s development, government should consider it obligatory to fund the institution adequately, for it will pay far greater and more enduring dividends than a thousand “Marriotts” or “Specialty Hospitals”.
In Guyana, where there is only one public university and an acute absence of key social institutions, would this not imply a wider and more diverse role than that of a traditional university in a more developed country? After fifty years of questionable effectiveness,
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would it not be reasonable to expect that UG’s policies, instead of seeking to exacerbate the social condition by perpetuating elitism and freezing social classes, will instead: facilitate and effect constructive social change; advocate and nurture reconciliation so that Guyanese might aspire to a higher humanity and nationhood?
And, what can be a more noble human exercise, or what can make better sense than rescuing and protecting our own good Dr Luncheon from again being put into a situation where he might be forced to say that Guyana has no qualified public servants, teachers, or security personnel, so government had to use Guyanese taxpayers’ hard earned money and recruit foreign workers under plush contracts, and a whole host of concessions?
In conclusion, I would wish Prof. Jacob Opadeyi a productive tenure. Demand the respect you deserve. I commend this courage.
Clarence O. Perry
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