Prime Minister stresses education key role

By Terrence Esseboom
Guyana Chronicle
April 16, 1998

PRIME Minister Sam Hinds yesterday reiterated the Government’s commitment to education as the nerve centre of its national development programmes.

"We are convinced that education is the determinant factor for the social, cultural, political and economic development of our peoples", he told the 114th annual delegates conference of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), at the Anna Regina Multilateral School on the Essequibo coast.

Theme of the four-day conference which opened yesterday is `The Teacher As An Educator in Partnership in the Delivery of Quality Education for the 21st Century’.

In the keynote address, Mr Hinds noted that the Government has undertaken "to invest greater (amounts of financial) resources in this important area with a view to meeting our goals within the agreed timeframes".

Outlining other plans for education, the Prime Minister said its focus is to "place technology at the service of education, in order to guarantee access to growing levels of knowledge and to ensure that educators will achieve the highest possible levels of professional development".

He told the conference these themes will be highlighted by President Janet Jagan at the second Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile, this weekend.

President Jagan is billed to be the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) lead speaker on education in the Caribbean and her speech will be a regional response to the Declaration of Santiago on Education, Mr Hinds said.

Guyanese students, like their counterparts of the Americas, "must have access to the best primary, secondary and higher education, as well as have available opportunities for life-long learning", he said, referring to President Jagan's prepared statement for the Chile summit.

The Prime Minister, who also did a stint as a teacher at the Tutorial High School in Georgetown from 1962 to 1963, urged educators to embrace current teaching and learning techniques to boost the sector.

"While traditional education would remain the backbone, other forms, new ways, seem to be growing in importance and teachers must equip themselves and be able" to manage these contemporary learning methods, he stated.

These include remedial teaching, adult education and distance and continuing education.

The Education Ministry has undertaken a number of novel initiatives to boost learning here and has instituted a `Creating a Learner Friendly Culture in Nursery Education', Parent Education in some hinterland communities, Curriculum Delivery by the distance mode and has also been participating in the University Development Linkages Project in Technical and Vocational (TECHVOC) Education.

Cabinet, Mr Hinds said, is pleased with progress achieved in the sector. He said that notwithstanding the anticipated economic setbacks to be faced this year, 12.9 per cent, more than $6 billion, has been budgeted for education.

"This is the highest percentage ever...this is a huge investment, and you teachers, along with students...are the main parties to ensure that our nation reaps the full benefit of these significant investments in education", Mr Hinds said.

In addition, Cabinet has approved stipend increases for trainee-teachers attending the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), Turkeyen, and has been evaluating `hard-lying' allowances for educators qualifying themselves at available learning institutions here.

But the contentious issue of salary increases for teachers remains "a matter for negotiation" between the administration and the GTU, Mr Hinds indicated.

Recently-elected GTU President, Mr Lance Baptiste in an invited comment, told the Chronicle the two sides are scheduled to meet next week to begin the first set of talks.

Baptiste will be sworn in tomorrow.

Mr Hinds reiterated that a sound learning programme is key to establishing an ethical foundation to construct a progressive and harmonious society, and, referring to the post-December 15 elections disturbances, principally in the city, he said "a vigorous promotion of these more profound expectations of education" will have to be pursued here.

Anna Regina Mayor, Mr Sammy Rampersaud, Regional Chairman, Mr Ali Baksh, Regional Town Councillors and former Deputy Prime Minister in the People’s National Congress Government, Dr Ptolemy Reid, were among others at the opening.

Bapiste read messages of support from local, regional and international teaching organisations, including the Ontario Teachers Federation of Canada, the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Union and the Guyana Local Government Officers Union.

A message from Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth, who was unable to attend the opening, was also read at the conference.

More than a dozen retired teachers from around the country were presented with awards and Ms Colleen Liddell won the annual Jean Persico award. Runner up was Mr Franklin Brandon.

Mrs Joy Walton and Mr Edward Williams also copped the GTU Presidential prize.

Cultural items were done by the Region Two CPCE teachers choir, Abrams Zuil Secondary School and Anna Regina Multilateral School, among others.

Former Principal of the Guyana School of Agriculture, Mr Winslow Davidson, also launched his book `150 years of Agricultural Education in Guyana’.