By Sharmain Grainger
There are some people in our society who are convinced that the mainstream education system has failed some of our youths who eventually enter adulthood but are barely able to find the means to make a decent and honest living. But there is an institution that many are convinced that has been helping to counter this dilemma.
That institution is the Kuru Kuru Cooperative College which is currently situated at D’Urban Backlands in the capital city.
Although it was established in 1975 as an institution to cater to, among other things, the academic upliftment of professionals within the public sector, the College currently operates under a redefined mandate that extends even farther.
Speaking of the evolution of the educational institution recently, Chairman of its Board of Directors, Mr. Ed Caesar, referred to it as a national institution since, according to him, “anyone can come here.”
“Some of the students who are coming here are students who believe that the national education system has failed them…some of us on our Board believe so too, but we are confident that we can contribute to the development of these young people,” Caesar said during a recent interview.
Youths who are desirous of accessing the services of the institution, need only have a desire to be taught, and not much else. According to Caesar, “there are occasions where we allow access to persons who have just gone to Fourth Form or Third Form because we recognise that if we don’t do that there will be more persons on the road who can’t do anything at all.”
Moreover, the institution has been making deliberate efforts to ensure that it produces well-rounded students who can advance their studies and become productive citizens. In this regard, the institution has on board highly-trained educators who are tasked with helping to prepare students for the Caribbean Examinations Council [CXC]- administered Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate [CSEC] examinations.
Although the school has not always produced laudable results, it has been consistently working towards improving.
Even as he made reference to the school’s top performer this year, Tafaugh Mundy, who secured eight CSEC passes and is now a student of the University of Guyana, Caesar admitted, “not every year we can say that we have had someone of this calibre, or this kind of performance.” He however noted that “what we can say is that there are several students who attend this institution who demonstrate willingness and who are eager to learn. One of the good things, too, is that we also have teachers who go the extra mile…some [teachers] even come here on Saturdays to interact with the students.”
But while the school has been unwavering in its efforts, Caesar underscored the need for parents to also play a role in the edification of their children. This is in light of his recognition that “many of the young people we have here are still under the control and the guidance of their parents. So at the last Board meeting we decided that we will have more regular meetings with parents in order to have them participate in a more integral way with the students’ performances.”
During the past academic year, the institution prepared 44 candidates for CSEC and, according to Caesar, students are afforded the facilities to have hands-on training, particularly in the subject areas of agriculture and science. In the area of agricultural science, the students are able to learn first-hand about growing vegetables the organic way, and in a science lab made from a goods container, they are given the opportunity to conduct analysis and carry out actual experiments.
As he spoke glowingly of the science lab, Caesar disclosed that “we are in close contact and communication with the Ministry of Education, particularly the Science Coordinator, Ms. Petal Jetoo, because we want to use, apart from regular lab equipment, the micro-science kits.”
According to Hansen Ellliot, Principal for the past four years, the institution has also been offering other training programmes, even to adults. In fact, he disclosed that the institution recently completed training 32 individuals for the Small Business Bureau, in the area of Food Safety and Preparation; 33 others were trained in Construction Technology and 22 more from the Childcare and Protection Agency were trained to better manage children who are accommodated at Holding Centres.
Elliot informed that, “We do training both on and off campus,” even as he revealed that the institution has been extending training programmes to some retrenched Guyana Sugar Corporation workers, some of whom have already started to earn incomes with their newfound skills, including sewing.
Added to this, the managers of the institution are currently in talks with representatives of the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry because “we believe that this College is well set to make a contribution to what is happening in the hinterland,” Caesar posited.
“I have visited many hinterland communities…and we here at the Kuru Kuru Cooperative College want to be able to find out from them exactly what they want. Because the mistakes people make in this country relate to wanting to do for the Amerindians what they don’t want to happen to them.”
“We must find out exactly what they want and then try to see if we can contribute to making what they want more efficient and more effective,” Caesar said.
He said too, “we have been trying to get the community involved in what we do here, that is why we offer, for example, IT [Information Technology] programmes. While the government is doing its e-governance and giving laptops and those things, we believe that some agency must be responsible for training the people who are in receipt of these things, and are in close proximity to hubs.”
“So we have in our curriculum, which we are reviewing regularly, aspects that relate to training people in the community to use their computers and to use different sites to do what they have to do,” said Caesar, as he revealed that the work of the institution even extends to garment construction and photography.
This is seen as an imperative, Caesar said, “Because we recognise that even the young people who leave here must have, in addition to CSEC subjects, a skill. We are looking at areas that they can develop, and so diversification is a strategy that we are using.”
The College also has a presence in Manchester, Berbice, where it hopes to shortly introduce a programme to give members of the community food processing skills that could help them to earn.
“Training will take place there, and we will have regular academic programmes there too,” said Caesar, as he disclosed that the expansion of the College’s work will be funded with the subvention it gets from the Ministry of Education, and the funds it receives from providing training programmes to some institutions.
As she lauded the ever-expanding work of the College, Board Member, Ms. Penelope Harris, said that the College not only gives opportunities to persons who may be late developers or may not have had opportunities in the regular school system to gain CXC subjects, but it also offers them the chance to acquire and improve skills, and also to learn about cooperatives.
“I personally believe in cooperatives, and I am really anxious to see cooperatives back on stream the way it should be, and I believe this College is providing the opportunities, not only to the students who come here full time, but also to persons who are working in offices or may have been retrenched, like the GuySuCo workers.”
Harris, a former Principal of the Carnegie School of Home Economics, also envisages being able to assist with the development of the institution’s skills training programme and ensuring that all programmes are in conformity with the Education Ministry’s vision to embrace STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics].
“I believe everyone who would have graduated from Kuru Kuru Cooperative College must be comfortable that they can enter the world of business and commerce and do very well; either working in Coop or an existing business and contributing to the development of that business,” said Harris.
As part of its efforts to share its accomplishment and to highlight its services, the College will this year be participating in the Education Ministry’s ‘Education Exposition’ slated to commence this week as part of the Education Month of Activities.
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