President tells Linden students Education remains Government's top priority

by Terrence Esseboom
Guyana Chronicle
November 8, 1999

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo said Friday his administration is maintaining an aggressive learning policy to counter the negative consequences of global neo-liberal policies which affect the social sector of developing countries.

Speaking with Linden students at the Mackenzie High School in Friday, the President declared that education remains the Government's "top priority".

He said curriculum reform initiatives, expanding teacher-training schemes, the innovative technical and vocational (TECHVOC) ventures, are strategies, "to prepare our grapple with the challenges that will confront them" as adults.

Other schemes such as the distance education programmes, and plans to put tertiary learning within the reach of more people will bear national fruits later, the President said.

He, however, voiced his concern with the quality of University of Guyana (UG) graduates, adding that increasingly, private sector employees are hesitant to employ them because of many shortcomings.

According to Mr Jagdeo, financial allocations to the institution grew from $150M six years ago, to some $800M at present, yet, "we are not getting value for our money... There is no corresponding increase in the quality of its graduates."

Notwithstanding these problems, he reiterated his government's promise to push learning at all levels and ensure that every Guyanese has access to education.

President Jagdeo told the appreciative gathering that tertiary learning "in some form" must also be available in the bauxite mining community.

He said an expansion programme for higher learning is currently under evaluation, and it is likely, that Linden in Region Ten, (Upper Demerara/Berbice) will be an initial beneficiary.

Budgetary allocations for the learning sector have climbed from 4.4 per cent in 1990, to 13.7 per cent this year in the face of numerous constraints, and according to Jagdeo, this shift represents a hike of over 300 per cent since 1992.

Mr Floyd McBean, Region Education Officer, for the Region, in his welcoming remarks, noted that (Upper Demerara/Berbice) students are achieving above the national average at national, regional and external tests.

McBean announced too, that institutions in the area have started a programme to slash the failure rate by 60 per cent, and have also launched innovative literacy and remedial programmes to back up plans pushed in the sector.

The educator explained that these efforts will be wasted if the "almost nil" opportunities for employment for high school graduates are not turned around.

In response, Mr Jagdeo noted that since "large investments in the key sectors are not forthcoming," the government will adopt a more aggressive policy to correct this anomaly.

Part of the blueprint includes promoting Guyana as an investor-friendly country and capturing more niche markets overseas for local products, the President said.

President Jagdeo and his Cabinet Saturday completed a two-day stay in Linden as part of an overall policy to reach out to Guyanese, and have a first-hand view of problems faced by people.

As he told students from Linden Foundation, Mackenzie High School, New Silver City Secondary School and Christianburg/Wismar Multilateral School, "we want to make a statement by going around the country (because) the other parts of the country matter too. Too often, people feel that Georgetown is Guyana."

Linden is the second community visited by the Cabinet under the new `reaching out' policy since Jagdeo was sworn in as President. His first visit was to the `Ancient County', Berbice.

During his hectic schedule, the President also spoke with municipal representatives of the Linden Town Council, where he handed over a $1M cheque to Mayor Mr Stan Smith to be used to develop sporting facilities, held talks with officials of the polio Rehabilitation Centre at Retrieve, inspected the 23-year old East Montgomery Mines, toured the Burnham Drive thoroughfare under repairs, met residents of Victory Valley and also had a frank meeting with members of the Guyana Metal Mining and General Workers Union (GMM&GWU).

At all of these events, Mr Jagdeo stressed the need for national unity which remains illusive for this multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nation.

Describing himself as a perennial optimist, the President told all the groups which he met to, "work with me to help change the (divisive) attitude" that has kept Guyanese apart.

"We are Guyanese first, not Indians, not Africans, not Portuguese...," President Jagdeo said.

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