Research of Social Sciences graduates presented at workshop

by Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
September 30, 2000

THE GRADUATE School of Social Sciences (GSSS) at the University of Guyana (UG) broke with tradition yesterday to present the works of eight of its prized students at a venue other than the hallowed walls of the institution.

The event took the format of a one-day seminar and was held at the Hotel Tower on Main Street under the theme `New Research in the Social Sciences in Guyana 2000'.

GSSS Director and seminar chairperson, Dr Ken Danns, said in opening remarks that the whole purpose of the seminar was not so much to showcase the research work of the school but that of the Faculty of Social Sciences in general.

"The plan is to present major studies done by post-graduate students and teaching and research staff of the Faculty of Social Sciences", Danns told his audience which primarily comprised practitioners in the field of social sciences.

He noted that though the university has, over the years, done significant and outstanding research on social, scientific and other issues, the problem was that most such studies were presented within the university and hardly anywhere else.

He blamed this seeming insularity on the part of the university on the marked lack of resources and avenues for publication.

Dr Danns pointed out also that university staff are from time to time involved in producing quality research for government and other agencies and that such studies are used to inform programmes and policies nationally, often without any credit being given to the institution.

"This quiet but substantial production from research is unknown to the public at large and also the media", Danns said, adding that as a consequence, unfounded criticisms are often levelled at the university for not contributing to national development through research.

Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Mark Kirton, was to also remark upon this in his presentation.

"Very quietly, our Institute of Developing Studies has been involved in significant research and consultancy activities but they sometimes go unnoticed and when the media focuses on us... we always see it in a very negative kind of light," Kirton said.

He also touched on the growing concern in the discipline at the loss of momentum amongst staffers to become engaged in research owing to the scarcity of funding among other deterrents.

"We are concerned...over the loss of momentum in the execution of research activity among our staff and colleagues", he said, noting that some have used as the excuse, the demand of a 15-week semester system.

They say the heavy teaching load associated with that system and the absence of an enabling environment, have all combined to reduce their productive research activity, Kirton said.

Other inhibitive factors, he said, were that not only are research grants few and hard to come by, but on top of this, faculties are being asked to operate with significantly reduced budgets.

He said, however, that while the institution is painfully aware of the need to research, there are those among them who baulked from such activity.

Some because they are not inspired to confront the unknown. Others out of a fear of commitment to long-term research. And yet others from a fear of rejection and criticism, he said.

"But I think that we have a responsibility as a faculty and a university to develop a synergy between teaching and research to ensure that our ideas are passed into the society and are recognised as such."

"I feel that we must continue to constantly challenge ourselves and our students to associate in a spirit of enquiry. As social scientists we need to contribute through scholarly research to the pool of ideas which can surely influence national development and at the same time nourish the various acts of the individual imagination," Kirton said.

Evidence that the Faculty was committed to effectively confronting challenges in the global academic arena which have taken place recently, he said, was the decision which was taken just this week to initiate reviews of all its programmes and to also establish a faculty advisory board.

This board, he said, will comprise members of the wider Guyanese society in order to further strengthen the bond of collaboration between the university and the community.

Noting that it was largely felt within the academic community that there is need for greater collaboration and emphasis on research, Kirton said it was hoped that the donor agencies will come to their assistance and provide some of the material support necessary for research to be done in the country.

Amongst the eight papers presented yesterday was Brenda Gill-Marshall's, `Child Abuse in Guyana' - A study of teacher-abuse of children in Secondary Schools in Guyana. A total of 1,200 students were used to conduct this study and they were drawn from 24 schools in seven out of the country's ten administrative regions.

Other works included Paloma Mohamed's `Penetrating the Portals' - An analysis of factors which inhibit progress in depressed areas; the case of Victory Valley in Guyana; Sheneiza Lookman's `The Internet in Guyana; Problems and Usage'; and Letroy Cummings' `Walter Rodney's Approach to Political Change'.

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