The multilateral schools should be urently upgraded
Stabroek News
November 20, 2001

Dear Editor,

I recently travelled through the rural areas of Guyana and observed the state of disrepair, nay the near state of collapse, of every single multilateral school constructed during the Burnham regime and concluded that some measly minded policy maker in the Government has instructed that these buildings be allowed to collapse to erase Mr. Burnham's memory from the face of Guyana. The multilateral school at Anna Regina has all but fallen down; the one in Mandela Avenue is in better shape but a disgrace all the same; the one at Bladen Hall, the alma mater of a most distinguished personage, and the one at New Amsterdam are in no better condition than the others.

Two observations are important here. The first is that we in Guyana have not built on our achievements in the past in constructing schools. As long ago as 1932, we constructed the Dolphin Primary School with moveable walls between classrooms to alternate between a classroom mode and a general assembly mode. Almost a hundred years after, we have so underachieved that we have not attained those Dolphin Primary School building standards ever again. I have been a primary school teacher in Guyana and in England and know what a primary school should look like from the inside. 80% of the new school buildings do not come close to the Dolphin standard nor to the most out-of-the-way primary school in England.

Mr. Burnham made some amends with the Multilateral school building programme. The buildings were undoubtedly an architectural achievement and were intended to provide a better scope for technical education. They should all be rehabilitated and, if possible, expanded for both reasons, that is, for their architecture and for their potential to deliver technical education.

The second observation is about the deterioration that results from the measly minded policies. New school buildings are going up in several places. They are hailed as harbingers of outstanding strides being made in education. The University building at Tain in Berbice is being expanded rapidly. So, the disrepair of the multilateral schools is not the result of a lack of funds. It is an issue of priorities in the allocation of education resources.

What is measly minded about these priorities is that the low level thinking that guides the decision making is aware that the PNC itself performed miserably in this area of school maintenance as it pursued some misguided priorities-mass games and other worthless distractions. The PNC is therefore on very low moral grounds if it begins to shout about poor school maintenance. The PPP will open the history book of PNC mismanagement on every one of its "28 years" pages and recount in embarrassing detail. Having thus guaranteed PNC silence, the degraded minds are pursuing a policy to erase any testament to the memory of Mr. Burnham or to associate that memory with decadence.

What the Government does not recognise is that when political thinking is caught in the gutter of racial pay-back and racial dominance, it takes a toll on creativity and innovativeness. The evidence is clear in the contrast between Mr. Donald Ramotar's "Perspective" in the October 2001 issue of Guyana Review and the October 29th National Review Conference on the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). Mr. Ramotar says with the straightest face that "Guyana is the most open and democratic society in our region" when I witnessed a most unashamed undemocratic National Review PRSP Conference on October 29th. No spontaneous presentations from the floor were allowed and the document was printed as approved before the approval date. Some openness and some democracy!

Mr. Ramotar speaks of the bold surging ahead of the Guyana economy when the PRSP has the gall to project zero export growth for the next 5 years and 2% export growth for the 5 years after that. The projections indicate clearly that the Government does not know what to do to get export growth and is telling us that we have nothing to look forward to for the next 10 years. Some economic surge!

Mr. Ramotar's observation that "the old authoritarian forces [r]an Guyana as if it was their personal property between 1964 and 1992" should be changed to the new situation in which the "new authoritarian forces run Guyana as if it is their personal property." The methods are different. The new methods rely on the legitimacy of a majority. That majority is sick and tired of the corruption that is evident in contracts that don't perform and the incompetence in economic management.

Participatory democracy has not improved one whit. In that respect, we are as undemocratic as before. And the evidence of non-progress is just as clear-zero export growth. We are trapped in an inter-locking set of vicious circles, racial pay-back policies, racial domination policies, a lack of creativity and innovativeness and a reliance on out migration, a quiescent dialogue process and, as Report No. 80/01 of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights indicates, on considerable suppression of human rights.

The decay of the multilateral schools symbolizes the low level trap in which we are caught. If we can remove the policy makers advocating decay, we will be prepared to accept inter locking virtuous circles. Let us begin by repairing the multilateral schools.

Yours faithfully,

Clarence F. Ellis