I got two calls on separate days from a lady at Guyenterprise, asking me to collect an invitation to the launching of Professor Winston McGowan’s book on Thursday. When she told me it was at State House, my tone changed. She advised that if I was going I have to pick up the invitation because since it is at State House, you will be requested to submit the card.
I have mellowed as I grow older. I wanted to tell her off. When I was younger I would have done that. Guyenterprise did not invite me to the book launching of a Guyanese that I cherish – Sister Mary Noel Menezes. This is a professor that I have been close to for forty-five years and who never fails publicly to state that I remain one of her favourite students when she taught me as a freshman at UG.
This is a sickening, depraved, nihilistic wasteland that is never going to see a future. At the event, the names of some of Sister’s students were called out, some of whom the Guyanese population does not know. I graduated with the President’s Medal and four other awards. I am one of the most easily recognized names in my country and taught at UG for 26 years. Yet my name was not mentioned. This is the sickening, petty level to which this country has sunk in the past sixty years. I don’t know why Guyenterprise thought I wanted to be there.
I told the lady I won’t be around because I would be leaving Linden for Georgetown on the afternoon of the event. She suggested that I could make the launch since it starts late into the afternoon. I politely said I would be tired. I didn’t want any invitation from Guyenterprise. I want no contact with Guyenterprise.
I came down from Linden at midday and fulfilled a lunch appointment at Nicky’s Fish Shop on Drury Lane in Campbellville with Dr. Hinds. David indicated he was attending and asked why I wasn’t. State House was my objection. If you know David Hinds, you can ask him. I explained that McGowan spent over forty years at UG, so why State House and not UG or the National Library. I further added that I cannot see a national academic in the US or France having a book launch at the White House or the Élysée Palace respectively.
I got to know Winston McGowan closely during my 26 years as a lecturer and he remains one of the lecturers I am fond of, when he taught me world history so long ago at UG. I owed it to him be there. But as a matter of deep ethical obligation to myself, I couldn’t go because I found the Guyenterprise invitation insulting and the occasion should not have been at the President’s official residence.
During the ceremony, the President sadly lamented the absence of a history degree programme at UG. I found this expression to be strange. The president cannot dictate to UG what programmes it should offer, but the presidency represents the national interests of the nation. The state could use its assets to encourage a history degree programme at UG. It is simple and does not call for governmental interference in UG’s affairs.
The state could finance a study why history is not being subscribed to. Here are my thoughts. I think the job prospects are severely limited for history degree holders. Poor students looking at their future aren’t going to spend millions for four years to graduate in history, only to find work in the teaching sector. What the state can do is provide lucrative scholarships, especially to interior students. Then after graduation, employment could be guaranteed. To add to this, the government should offer post-graduate scholarships to four or five of the best students.
I am suggesting such an approach could stimulate the history programme. When the new Vice Chancellor took office last year, one of his major schemes was to rent a huge building downtown at $6M monthly to start a business school. He was interested in business studies. If the Vice Chancellor can see business studies as important to UG and has encouraged at UG a school of entrepreneurship which is funded by the state, why can’t the president facilitate the resurrection of the history programme through governmental initiative?
The state funds UG partially. Of course UG collects money from students. But state grants surely will go a long way to re-starting the degree in history.
What a funny country. The president laments the lack of a history degree at a time when Guyana is getting a law school.
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