By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
During her speech at the recent Guyana Manufacturing Services Association (GMSA) dinner and award ceremony, former Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar spoke about the many bad decisions that her country made as an oil producer. However, she boasted quite warmly about one of the things Trinidad actually got right—heavy investment in education. Now, Trinidad has more than a few of the most educated minds in the Caribbean.
As such, Persad-Bissessar said that it is her unwavering recommendation for Guyana to similarly invest in education. In fact, the Trinidadian said that Guyana’s politicians should look to secure free education from nursery to university.
When Persad-Bissessar spoke about the need to provide free education for Guyanese, she was highlighting the overall opportunity for national development that faces this under developed country.
She told those at the ceremony, “Guyana now stands at the crossroads of a pivotal moment in its own history; the opportunities coming its way will certainly result in increased employment and investment. Noting this, I am advocating that this is simply not enough.”
The Trinidadian Opposition continued, “The real investment that you make has to be the development of your country’s most important resource –your human resource – the people of Guyana. I recommend that Guyana invests heavily in human capital development.”
Persad-Bissessar said that education and training of people, as well as the improvement of all areas of health, education, and infrastructure are critical.
Speaking first about education, Persad-Bissessar said that significant investments in education at all levels should be made. “As you may be aware, this area is one that is dear to me, and I have dedicated a significant portion of my political career in working to improve the education sector in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Persad-Bissessar said that under the Panday government, Trinidad was able to achieve free universal secondary school education and, “the Government I led was able to achieve Universal Early Childhood Care and Education and, we increased tertiary education participation rate to about 65%. In 2010, we introduced laptops for all students entering Secondary School – and today some of these same students are using their laptops in University.”
The politician said that “investments into education by providing the resources, staffing and housing of educational establishments should be made from pre-school all the way to PhD for Guyanese citizens.”
However, Persad-Bissessar did not neglect to sell the services her own country is offering. She spoke about some of the offerings in Trinidad that Guyana can make use of for now.
She said, “Local and Regional Academia including our own University of the West Indies now listed by the World University Rankings as being in the top five percent in the world are already preparing our society for a sustainable growth future.”
She continued, “Incidentally your own Sir Shridath Ramphal served with distinction as Former Chancellor of the UWI and only last month at the St. Augustine Campus, young Shivnarine Chanderpaul was granted Honoris Causa, a Doctor of Laws and Letters in celebration of a stunning cricket career.”
Persad-Bissessar stressed that there are distinct advantages in being able to offer the level of insight and management required for strong and potent decision making.
She said that at the St. Augustine campus in Trinidad, there are several programs from the BSc to the Master’s level specialized in Energy management, resource development and environmental sustainability including programs at the MBA Level in Sustainable Energy Management at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business.
“In Trinidad and Tobago, our own UTT also offers significant training in these and more vocational programs allied to the petroleum sector including a Drilling Academy which my Government had opened. These are opportunities close to home which Guyana may very well consider as you invest in the best in class to train your own workforce,” said Persad-Bissessar.
Going back to her point about opportunities for national development, Persad-Bissessar also spoke about health. She said that new hospitals and health centers need to be built and staffed by the brightest minds available, as well as more doctors trained and hired throughout the country and of special importance to visit and attend to remote areas where the indigenous people’s lives are important.
In addition, access to electricity, clean water availability and preservation of the natural environment including climate change mitigation is a fundamental pillar to national development.
“Indeed, without this robust pillar being at the centre of your discussions, you may very well prepare to fail, if you fail to prepare,” said Persad-Bissessar.
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