Late UG Berbice Campus start will not affect students
- officials assure
by Sharon Lall
September 15, 2000
STUDENTS enrolling at the yet to be opened University of Guyana Berbice Campus will not be put at any disadvantage although the new academic term is well under way, the Turkeyen administration said yesterday.
From all indications, the first semester of the 2000/2001 academic year at the Tain Campus will spill over to the new calendar year, allowing for exams to be held later than they would have been at Turkeyen, which has a student population of about 5,000.
"We recognise the implications for the late opening of the Berbice Campus. Students will not be put at any disadvantage. We have plans to ensure that the syllabus is not rushed through and proper teaching will take place," UG Registrar, Dr David Chanderbali said.
"...We hope that for the second semester of 2000/2001, both semesters will begin at the same time," he told a news conference at the Turkeyen campus, East Coast Demerara to clarify a report by the Guyana Information Services (GIS) on the delay in opening the Berbice Campus.
The university said the report had several inaccuracies.
Chanderbali chaired the briefing with Acting Vice-Chancellor, Dr James Rose; Dr Marlene Cox, Head of the UG Berbice Campus Task Force; Bursar, Mr John Seeram and Dean of the UG Natural Sciences Faculty, Mr John Caesar.
The keys to the Berbice Campus are now due to be handed over to the administration on Monday, some 10 days after contractors had originally scheduled.
The opening last week was put back because construction was incomplete.
Officials expect classes at the Berbice Campus will begin as soon as the campus is furnished. The formal opening is in November.
Once it has the keys, the central university has to equip the Berbice Campus library, offices, four classrooms and a computer room.
Seeram said UG will soon start furnishing the Berbice Campus.
The university yesterday got approval from the Education Ministry for some $30M to be made available for furnishings.
Registration of students for the Berbice Campus will take place on September 22 at Tain from 09:00 hrs (a.m.) until the process is finished.
So far, the administration has done all interviews and document checks and considered even late applications. Next week it should have the results of the English and Maths qualifying exams which were done yesterday.
By Monday the papers would have been marked and a total registration package produced for all students registered on September 22, Chanderbali noted.
The university is maintaining that the final offering of programmes on the Berbice Campus will be determined by student numbers and availability of lecturers.
Cox said, however, that concrete programmes at the Berbice Campus have been identified in Accountancy, Marketing, Public Management, a Diploma programme in English, History and Maths, and a certificate programme in Education under various specialisation.
Based on the responses, particularly to Education, the university might consider offering nursery, primary and administration at the certificate level.
When planning of the Berbice Campus began, an initial student intake of 150 to 200 was anticipated. To date, 123 students have accepted places at the campus, and this figure is expected to increase further since more prospective students are sitting entrance qualifying exams.
Cox said 60 of the 123 students are in the Division of Social Sciences, 54 in the Division of Education and nine in the Division of Arts and General Studies.
The university had hoped to have full time lecturers at Berbice but, according to Cox, faculties made only a few recommendations for full time appointments from among the applicants who responded to advertisements in the press for lecturers.
Given the circumstances, lecturers from Turkeyen are needed to teach the programmes at the Berbice Campus.
"The administration has always maintained that such teaching at the Berbice Campus was voluntary, and that students at Turkeyen and the lecturers' responsibilities here should not suffer as a result of teaching at the new campus," Cox added.
It was stipulated that such lecturers teach only one course per semester at Berbice. Most courses carry three to four hours of lectures or tutorials per week, depending on the course.
For the Division of Arts and General Studies, the full-time appointment of two lecturers was recommended. The Turkeyen administration is interviewing these applicants, the Chronicle was told.
In the Faculty of Social Sciences, one applicant was interviewed but that programme requires an additional 13 or 14 lecturers from the main university.
Some lecturers at the Turkeyen Campus have indicated a willingness to teach at Berbice based on certain conditions.
According to Cox, there were about 23 responses to advertisements for staff at the Berbice Campus.
From that lot, four lecturers are seeking full-time employment. Three of them are from Berbice while the other is from Georgetown, she said.
None of the applications were from the Turkeyen Campus. Instead, these were from persons with no appointment at the university.
Cox said the Berbice Campus Task Force, which includes the Deans of two faculties, had discussions on the package that Turkeyen lecturers should be given for teaching at Berbice. However, there has been movement on the part of the administration from the package originally offered.
The last offer on September 5 was a salary of one third of the lecturer's basic monthly salary, travelling allowance of $7,000 per return trip, accommodation, travel insurance and a per diem allowance determined by the number of hours absent from Turkeyen of $4,500 for 24 hours absence.
On September 6, the Faculty of Social Sciences rejected that proposal and told the administration it would "take no further part in any of the administrative and teaching activities relating to the Berbice Campus".
The terms and conditions they want are duty free concessions for the purchase of cars, 50 per cent of their monthly basic salary, $8,000 travelling per return trip indexed to inflation and a per diem allowance of $5,000 for 24 hours absence from Turkeyen.
"One of these terms - the granting of duty free concessions for the purchase of cars is determined solely by the Ministry of Finance," Cox said.
At the Turkeyen Campus, lecturers are required to teach at least 12 hours per week.
The lecturers in the impasse have stated that their position is "non-negotiable" and are holding out that they want duty-free concessions to purchase vehicles, a request that is squarely in the domain of the Ministry of Finance, Cox said.
"We do not have control over duty-free (concessions)...there is no scope for negotiating with the Social Science (lecturers) on that matter...we have already sent off correspondence to the Ministry of Finance. We will drive a very hard bargain," Rose said.
He admitted that the difficulties with lecturers in the Social Sciences Faculty are certainly not the "ideal condition" under which to open the Berbice Campus.
"One would have preferred that (we) didn't have the ruckus you have now...but this is not unusual among academics," he remarked.
"What will obtain in Berbice, whenever we open, will be extensions of Turkeyen departments and faculties. We will not have, for instance, a Head of Department on the Berbice Campus...
"It is one department, it's just that the campuses are spread out," Rose explained.
He likened the delays of work at Berbice to most other construction work where there are variations which add cost and time to buildings.
"...This is a problem we had in Berbice. We insisted on modification and, therefore, there was an overrun of the contract time...We were not particularly happy with the landscaping," Rose stated.
Necessary additions like electricity and telephones had not been properly installed at the Berbice Campus and the administration found it prudent to defer the handing over ceremony.
Rose anticipated that teaching at the Berbice Campus will start long in advance of the ceremonial opening. (
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