A cohesive society is the foundation of improving the quality of life, and by extension, the enjoyment of a ‘good life’ by the citizenry. And when it comes to achieving this goal, the Ministry of Social Cohesion is prepared to do its fair share.
This was one of the primary assertions of Social Cohesion Minister, Dr. George Norton during yesterday’s budget debate.
Norton said that the Ministry’s commitment to achieving a cohesive society is evident in the numerous programmes pursued since 2015 as well as the new programmes in store for 2018.
The Minister said, “As most are aware by now, the Departments of Culture, Youth and Sport have been delinked from the Ministry of Education, and now fall under the remit of the Ministry of Social Cohesion. This means that the mandate of the Ministry of Social Cohesion has been expanded.”
He added, “You may also know that with the financial support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) we have been able to complete the development of the Social Cohesion five-year Strategic plan for promoting and enhancing social cohesion in Guyana for the period 2017-2021. An extensive consultative process in all 10 administrative regions in Guyana was the basis for this document.”
The Minister told the House that the consultative process was a true reflection of inclusion and participation in the democratic process of a myriad of stakeholders. He said that the aim was to ensure that all citizens participated in determining the focus and direction of Guyana’s social cohesion process.
Norton said that stakeholders were drawn from Regional Democratic Councils, Neighborhood Democratic Councils, Community Development Councils, civil society, the Joint Services, cultural and political groups, private sector, youth groups, health workers and vulnerable groups.
The Parliamentarian said too that the Ministry of Social Cohesion organized a Validation Workshop, which was held in March of this year, to unveil the draft strategic plan, and to permit participants to provide inputs and suggestions for its finalization. On completion, the Ministry he said moved into the implementation process.
Norton said that the implementation plan and the initiatives contained therein have the potential to move Guyana to the place where its citizens would have a greater appreciation and respect for differences, and would be willing to work together for a unified country.
The Minister said, “We realize that cohesion and harmony cannot take place in Guyana, without an appreciation of our differences. It is against this background that the Ministry focused on the Regional training in Diversity Education and Inclusion workshops which commenced in October 2016. The training also facilitates the development of cross-community understanding and helps participants to learn about changes and challenges that are associated with our diverse nation.”
Norton said that this series of workshops is intended to promote and encourage respect for other cultures, by seeking to break down stereotypes, and advocate for good relations within and across communities. Forty-eight such training sessions have been held.
Additionally, the Parliamentarian reported that 2018 would see the completion of the Civic Education booklet which is expected to be distributed in all the primary schools throughout Guyana to students from Grades One to Six. The booklet is intended to educate Primary age students about the value of being good citizens and about the valuable contributions made by the nation’s diverse groups.
On the issue of culture, Norton stated that over 700 million dollars under Cultural Preservation and Conservation would be used in 2018 to construct the Institute of Creative Arts. He said that this project would entail construction of buildings for the improvement of the National School of Music as well as the National School of Theatre Arts and Drama.
Norton was pleased to inform the House that the continued development and enhancement of Museums form an integral part of Guyana’s capital profile for 2018. As such, he said that the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, the Guyana National Museum and the Museum of African Heritage would be upgraded.
Under the National Trust, Guyanese will also see the restoration of Fort Zeelandia and provisions for new monuments – the 1823 Memorial Monument, the Chinese Arrival Monument, Portuguese Arrival, the Ruimveldt Massacre monument and the restoration of St. George’s Cathedral.
As for the Guyana Film Festival, Norton said that this would have a different focus in 2018. He informed the National Assembly that a new and broader spectrum of participants would be involved.
He said that International Museums Day Exhibition; Emancipation Exhibition, outreaches and lecture series would be taking on new dimensions and innovative approaches. He said, too, that the Guyana National Museum would be celebrating its 150th Anniversary and the Commemoration Activities would be significant.
As for the plans in store for youth development, Norton was elated to reveal that his Ministry will continue with programmes that are already in place since the government’s policy is to concentrate the responsibility for youth training in the Ministry of Social Cohesion with effect from January 1, 2018. He said that these programmes include: the sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED), the Hinterland Youth Innovative Project of Guyana, Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training Programme (YEST) and the Hinterland Employment and Youth Scheme (HEYS).
In the area of Sports, the Social Cohesion Minister said that in 2017, the Ministry moved to enhance a number of grounds for recreational purposes. All of the regions have been targeted for this initiative Norton stated.
Norton said, “Government is also pursuing the application of a comprehensive National Sports Policy, based on consultations, as a matter of good governance, transparency and accountability. This is consistent with the National Sports Commission Act of 1993 which calls on the Commission to encourage the conduct of sporting activities in accordance with the national policy on Sports.”
He continued, “2018 will be seeing two additional synthetic tracks being laid in Guyana, in the coastal and interior hubs of Regions Six and 10. Both sites identified are located in the vicinity of established townships, notably New Amsterdam and Linden/Wismar. These tracks would be hosting venues for competitive events, with training access and recreational facilities for our citizens.”
Norton added, “Remodeling of the National Gymnasium located on Mandela Avenue continues with the addition of two multipurpose courts to facilitate Futsal, Tennis, Basketball and Volleyball as well as the addition of bleachers to these courts.”
The Social Cohesion Minister also noted that the support of athletes through the provision of grants will continue to be a permanent feature of the government. On this note, he revealed that the budget provides $25M to assist the nation’s athletes with participation in local and international tournaments.
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