Graduation signals start of hard work - Prof Lutchman

Stabroek News
June 27, 1999

Graduation does not signal the end of the need for hard work and sustained application if you are to be successful in your chosen career.

So said Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Harold Lutchman, in his feature address at the seventy-first graduation exercise of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) held at the National Cultural Centre on Thursday afternoon.

Prof Lutchman noted that it should always be borne in mind that graduation represents both an end and a beginning; an end in the sense that you have successfully reached a stage of your own development, and a beginning in the sense that you are expected henceforth to perform with professionalism reflective, and in justification of the training received.

He said questions are often posed as to the nature of the relationship which should exist between the teacher, students and parents. This, he said, has become more relevant in the light of portrayals on television which emphasise the rights of the children even against their parents. He noted that nowadays teachers have to be prepared to deal with serious incidents of assault and battery. This apart, only the myopic or those blinded by prejudice of a certain type, would wish to deny that the Guyanese society is in serious crisis and is dysfunctional in many respects.

Addressing the packed auditorium, Prof Lutchman said that in addition, Guyana is far from achieving the level of integration which many feel it should have if it is to develop and move forward.

Pointing out that he was touching on a potentially controversial subject and that his position would not find favour with a number of persons, he said that one clear bit of evidence in support of his contention "is the ready resort to racial interpretations and explanations of phenomena which often bear no meaningful relationship to these elements or alternatively, did not previously so readily feature in such explanations."

Matters of such importance should be addressed both promptly and nationally with a view to having them modified, if not reversed or extinguished altogether, he said, adding that professional and other groups or individuals should be an integral part of this effort and changes in the curricula of educational institutions, including the University of Guyana, to focus on certain areas or subjects, may well be projected.

Speaking of teachers' remuneration, Prof Lutchman said that recent events have demonstrated that teachers are justifiably concerned about their levels of remuneration, with being fairly and adequately compensated while being engaged in the "noble effort of developing minds. And the love of the profession is likely to be strengthened by meaningful increases in income."

Prof Lutchman said that he has formed the impression that what has recently been occurring in Guyana is a process of "levelling down" rather than "levelling up". In other words, he said that instead of aspiring after patterns of behaviour which were once regarded as respectable or superior, standards have been lowered to the point where teachers and public servants are articulating their demands for salary increases and other benefits in language very close to the "we want we tint" syndrome. This is without regard to the potential impact of their behaviour and articulation on younger more vulnerable and impressionable minds in the population.

He said that he has always adopted the position that those who occupy positions of leadership should always try to set the tone or pattern for those they lead.

He noted too that in recent times one often got the feeling that strategies and tactics are planned in a vacuum in Machiavellian terms, that is, with the end justifying the means; where threats, coercion and even use of force are substituted for reasoned arguments to the point where they are in danger of being elevated to the status of procedures or first resort. He said that the negative and unfortunate of all of this is that such behaviour could in time become institutionalised and send a message to society in general and the young people, in particular, that these are the proper, approved and acceptable ways of solving disputes.

In the process, he said "sight could be lost to the fact that after the matters in dispute are settled, persons have to live and work together and this is rendered difficult, if not impossible where it is preceded by anger or bitterness."

"Authority, power structures and relations, whose maintenance are so vital to successful management and administration tend to be eroded or broken down completely with serious adverse consequences for the organisation and society as a whole," he said.

He added that "one does not readily and easily move from a situation in which slogans and statements, insulting and disrespectful of those in authority are used, to one of regard and respect for them after the matter in dispute is resolved. There is, inevitably, particularly in Guyana where we tend to be reluctant to put the past events behind us, a residue of bitterness characterizing future working and social relationships." (Miranda La Rose)

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples