Freddie Kissoon’s article titled ‘The words of Carl Greenidge” (Kaieteur News, November 20, 2019), is an opportunity for the question of how it deals with our kith and kin in the diaspora.
In his imitable and powerful style, Freddie Kissoon in essence poses the delicate question of how we should treat those who live abroad and in some cases, fled when things were tough in Guyana but now return to serve.
The difficulties here began a hundred years ago when British Guiana as a colony and appendage of the Mighty Great Britain, were subjects and not Citizens of the Empire, suffered certain disadvantages.
For example, by the time of the Second World War, only one full scholarship was available to students of our top Secondary Schools, generally, Queen’s College and The Bishops’ High School.
We then had the exodus of the 50s, 60s and beyond.
In the post-1964 period, hundreds of Guyanese were given scholarships to study in many ‘non-traditional’ countries. As we know, not all returned.
Locally, President’s College was established in 1985, a Secondary School of Excellence. All of the first batches, did exceedingly well in Universities. The question is ‘how many are now serving in Guyana?’
On the other hand, many of us stayed, made sacrifices of all sorts like Freddie, and Freddie is quite right. I and a few of my closest family members are in that category.
While we must always welcome those whose navel-strings are buried here, we must be careful not to give the impression that their sojourn abroad allows them a special entitlement.
I recall, and I give two examples, when we were anxious to get trained nurses for our Public Health Institutions, they recruited qualified nurses from the UK and elsewhere. We ran into serious problems.
The locally trained nurses were proficient in several aspects of health care in hospitals – in other words, they were competent all-rounders.
The overseas nurses were trained to function in a unit with ideal conditions, where you had a Consultant, a Registrar, House Officers and an Intern, while the local nurses often performed the duties of the last two or three categories, hence the problem which had to be solved by discussion, tolerance and understanding.
Second, I recall at the Mechanical Workshop, at the Ministry of Works, Hydraulics and Supply, we brought in from the UK, highly qualified mechanics and mechanical engineers. They could only fix the problem with the aid of computers and sophisticated equipment, not available in Guyana at the time.
I recall, with some amusement that these skilled gentlemen could not fix the problems that developed with some of the cars. Mechanic Cyrus put his ear near the engine block and fixed the problem, as the boys would say, in ‘labba time.’
As in life, we must seek balance, care and consideration, and be careful not to trivialize those who stayed and developed certain skills.
Perhaps, what is necessary is what was done for a period in the 70s; that is, to have an orientation process for Guyanese and others who we bring in to help with the daunting task of development in a swift moving scientific and technological world, and let us live the local song ‘all awe a one family.’
Freddie must be congratulated for bringing this matter to the fore.
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