Largest ever UG batch graduates

by Terrence Esseboom
Guyana Chronicle
November 14, 1999

UNIVERSITY of Guyana (UG) Vice Chancellor, Professor Harold Lutchman, yesterday defended the institution's contributions to nation building in the face of Herculean challenges and intensifying public criticism.

Addressing the historic 33rd Convocation in which more than 1,070 students graduated, Lutchman said UG "should be praised for its contributions to nation building," although he agreed that "many of the institution's programmes are not geared specifically for national development."

For him, Guyanese must resist the temptation of dwelling almost excessively on the shortcomings of the institution "to the point where they become self-fulfilling prophecies."

Efforts to enhance the reputation of the institution are frustrated because the bulk of the enrolment is drawn from the "lower levels" of the country's education system, and they "find it difficult to come to terms with the three Rs, (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), the Vice Chancellor observed.

The Faculty of Social Sciences which attracts most applicants, is the chief culprit, Lutchman reported. He nevertheless tied the fortunes of UG to improvements further down the educational ladder.

"The lower levels of the educational system will have to do their part before the University of Guyana can do its part," the Vice Chancellor argued.

The batch graduating yesterday surpassed last year's figure of 1,047, making this year's exercise the largest in UG's 36-year existence.

Lutchman, in his address, reminded them that while adequate resources were critical to quality learning, "much can (still) be achieved in the absence of less than perfect conditions," which still prevail at UG.

Under those difficulties, students must fall back on their innate resources which he listed as "determination, self application discipline and hard work."

"Gripe...but don't be demotivated or distracted," he advised.

On the issue of tuition cost, the Vice Chancellor noted, "A good quality tertiary education cannot be cheaply acquired (and) this has implications for the fees that students pay, and the levels at which those who teach are remunerated."

There have been calls to hike students fees after the depreciation of the local currency against the United States dollar.

Most students pay G$127,000 per academic year since cost recovery was introduced in 1994. This figure represented US$1,000 then, but there has been no upward increase in cost since the value of the local currency depreciated to US$1 for G$180.

In the ongoing `fees' debate, Lutchman said the thrust should be in the quality of the human resources at UG to ensure that they enjoy "comparability" with other tertiary institutions.

He feels the intensifying public, verbal whipping of the university was unfair.

"It is unrealistic to expect the University of Guyana to produce products of comparable worth with its overseas counterparts when it cannot compete with them in the acquisition of quality personnel."

According to him, some UG graduates employed at local firms earn more than tutors who train them. He said too that when compared with remuneration packages offered to lecturers overseas, the compensation for UG lecturers is inferior.

Professor Rex Nettleford, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), who delivered the main address, challenged the graduates to inculcate what he called "the seven deadly virtues - selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership" - to counteract the global loss of values.

Women won most of the 10 prizes awarded at yesterday's formality.

Jennifer Cumberbatch of the Faculty of Education won the President's Medal as the best Graduating Bachelors Degree Student.

The Chancellor's Medal for the Second Best Graduating student was also won by another female Education student, St Margaret's Primary School teacher Ms Cheryl Weever.

Joanne Collins, of the Arts Faculty, copped The Council of the University Prize for the best graduating student who has attained at least a `Pass with Credit' and has made the greatest contribution in other areas of university activities.

Law student Christene McGowan secured the Pro Chancellor's Medal for best graduating student in that discipline. She also won the University of Guyana Students Society Award.

The K.A. Juman-Yassin Sport Award was earned by David Carto, of the faculty of Technology, and Natural Science graduate Kowlessar Misir obtained the Dennis Irvine Award.

The Prime Minister's Medal went to Juanita M. Chung as the top graduand in the Diploma in Public Management course.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples