Jagdeo: Berbice tertiary education dream realised
Campus declared open

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
November 20, 2000

Thirty-seven years after the University of Guyana (UG) was established and more than three decades of lobbying for the extension of tertiary education to Berbice, a campus of the university was officially declared open yesterday by President Bharrat Jagdeo at Tain on the Corentyne some 13 miles from New Amsterdam.

Hundreds of Berbicians from all walks of life including scores of schoolchildren converged on the campus lawns on an overcast afternoon to witness history unfold and a life-long dream realised.

Addressing the gathering which included members of the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, members of the University Council and senior education officials, President Jagdeo pledged to acquire the contentious John's Ville Senior Citizens Home some 800 metres away which was originally identified as the site for the campus. "I am going to take that land whether they like it or not" he declared to loud applause from the crowd. Referring to the occasion as "a very important day for Berbice and Berbicians" the President said "the campus will be a place where the dreams of generations of Berbicians will be realised. It can fulfil the promise of a new age and allow our children to fulfil their full potential."

The Head of State told the packed open-air ceremony that the establishment of the campus is the realisation of a promise made by his party in its 1992 and 1997 manifestoes. "We had to do this, it had to happen but we had a difficult time in establishing this campus. We expected people to rally around us but some people do not want to see progress" he lamented while expressing regret that the late President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan was not there to witness the opening.

He also referred to the challenges facing the rice and sugar industries while pointing out the need for Guyanese to make changes and to start developing "new industries such as information technology, eco-tourism, manufacturing and expanding the production of our minerals."

He reiterated his Government's intention of breaking the monopoly of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company [GT&T] to allow competition in the sector and expressed the hope that the new campus will expand into new technological fields. Government, he disclosed, was spending some $930 million on university education and reasserted that the Turkeyen Campus "was not starved for funds". The Tain Campus he told the gathering has so far cost the Government some $181 million. According to Jagdeo, several villages on the Corentyne which are now without power will receive electricity shortly following an injection by Government of $200 million and $100 million by the Guyana Power and Light Inc. into the utility. He called on Guyanese to support the administration in its development efforts "since the Government cannot do it alone.

Government, he said "will continue to focus on addressing the basic needs of the people and to safeguard the freedoms we now enjoy."

Minister of Education, Dr. Dale Bisnauth in a lengthy address described the opening as "a historic occasion in the life of the University of Guyana and expressed the hope that the campus will not produce graduates who might suffer from dysfunctional literacy. "We have a lot of catching-up to do in Guyana and it demands a lot of imagination to move us in the direction in which we want to go and how we are to get there. Time", he noted, "is not on our side".

Chairman of the proceedings, UG Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Joshua Ramsammy in his remarks described the opening as "a red-letter day" and emphasised that the two campuses are equal partners in the delivery of university education. He referred to plans to restructure the University and noted that inter-campus relations were a very integral part of that restructuring. The intention, he said, was to minimise inter-dependency of the campuses while pointing out the importance of adhering to rules and regulations. He also paid tribute to the "architect" of the University of Guyana, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan who persevered amidst widespread criticism and his protégé, President Jagdeo who ensured that the Berbice campus became a reality.

Construction of the campus began in June by Courtney Benn Contracting Services and was completed for occupancy on September 18, despite numerous setbacks and in particular inclement weather. It was completed at a cost of approximately $70 million. Classes commenced on November 6 with 162 students enrolled in three divisions: Education, Social Sciences and Arts and General Studies. The campus is staffed by four full-time and 22 part-time lecturers from Turkeyen.

President of the University of Guyana Students Council, Charrandass Persaud told Stabroek News that the Council was perturbed over the fact that executive was not invited to the opening. However, Head of the UG Berbice Campus Task Force, Dr. Marlene Cox told this newspaper that an invitation was sent to the President by the University's administration. Some persons expressed concern over a banner that was placed on the campus fence which read: "All Berbicians thank the PPP/Civic for the Campus." The plaque was unveiled by President Jagdeo while the ribbon was cut by former President Janet Jagan.

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