Aug 04, 2022 Letters
Recently, President Ali spoke at The Center for Strategic and International Studies on
“Strengthening the Guyana-US Relationship” held in the United States. Video of the proceedings can be found on YouTube. During the presentation, the president highlighted key areas of Guyana’s strategy in the face of the climate crisis and impending food crisis in the world. In response to a question about the “resource curse”, the president stated that with or without resource wealth, “management” is crucial and that the characteristics required for effective management of the resource curse includes having the right human resource, the right people, the right attitude and the right culture. On at least one other occasion, while addressing representatives from government, the media, members of the international and business communities, along with members of the public, the president referred to the need for “mental transformation” and the need for “critical thinking” as pre-requisites for a successful Guyana.
Editor, you may already be well aware that present-day books on democracy are being written on
the revitalised premise of the “return to the individual” as the first and final unit of democracy.
Government in today’s world should ensure that the rights and dignities of individuals be protected from both the government itself and from religious institutions that may impose views and values, which can erode and threaten the rights of human individuals. In light of these developments and given that the president has emphasised the importance of human resources to the success of the nation, what then could be more critical than the need for our systems of human development to be principally concerned with the wholesome unfoldment of each and every individual?
Editor, I ask for the space to assert a possibility that follows from this line of the president’s
leadership: that each and every student that enters the school system should be assigned to one or
several behavioural psychologists and should retain a continuous course with such professionals over the entire duration of their student life. Behavioural psychologists assigned to individual students can take the form of counsellors, guidance counsellors and specialised therapists that work with individuals as they face the emotional journeys that come with the challenges of school life, personal life and the trials of psychological development along the path to individuation. Of course it would certainly take much more than the space of a letter to the editor, to justify the inclusion of a deliberate keystone programme of guided psychological development at schools and so I would like to highlight two themes, relevant to our time, that line up with this assertion, in the hope that it can promulgate a constitutive dialogue surrounding the issue of the psychological development of individuals in Guyana.
One theme is the need for educational institutions to include programmes for the development of
social, emotional and behavioural skills. These are more conventionally known as “soft skills” in the everyday language and is a hot topic today among management practitioners throughout industry. It has been known for decades, that scores in knowledge and aptitude tests alone do not predict success in an individual and that more so, the deeper, still developable hidden traits including motives and self-concept predict successful outcomes in life. Doing well at CSEC is one thing, but that’s not all there is to the development of a human being, nor is administering “discipline” to them when they lack conformity. The limitations of “herding” students into “streams” and employing only traditional views, such as stricture or certain religious values, to the exclusion of other factors to a persons’ development, is in contradiction to the president’s repeated calls for mental transformation.
Another theme is the need for “therapy” and those qualified to provide the range of services
outside of the practice of clinical psychiatry. As we face the emotional journeys of our lives, be it in academic pursuits, careers, in personal life or in relationship life, the lack of well-timed facilitations of self-awareness can leave us strangers to ourselves and at times, to those around us. Branches of the military embody the most extreme implementations of self-awareness interventions at moments where the mind fails and a person’s trauma is revealed during the course of training. The military breaks you down and systematically rebuilds you. I believe that this may be why some in Guyana, call for the return of “National Service”. That course is no longer relevant. The development of human beings is a subtle art that requires the care and attention of diligent and trained professionals such as practitioners of behavioural psychology.
Editor, I believe that emotional immaturities, traumas, ancestral patterns such as superstition
and false beliefs, the limitation of and over-reliance upon “default traditional” values, together with inconsistencies in the services delivered to persons in Guyana, are costing us dearly and can
potentially cost us more, especially since new population projections are coming into view. I feel very primed at this moment to add my voice to this most pertinent dialogue – one that I hope is seen as constitutive, especially among those who have more to say about it, and with data to support. I also believe that the president deserves far more recognition for his call for mental transformation and critical thinking. This call runs deeper than the call for investors to fund construction projects.
Investment has to be made in each and every single individual. Multiple streams of knowledge point us in this direction.
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