Refurbished Brazilian centre opens with largest student intake ever By Gitanjali Singh
Stabroek News
February 8, 2002

The Centre of Brazilian Studies was formally reopened on Wednesday evening when Prime Minister Samuel Hinds performed the symbolic cutting of the ribbon, signalling the start of the first semester and the commencement of classes in Portuguese for over 170 Guyanese students.

The Church Street building was recently refurbished at the cost of $14 million which was financed by the Brazilian Embassy.

Delivering the feature address at the simple ceremony Ney Do Prado Dieguez, ambassador of the Federative Republic of Brazil, said that the main aim in refurbishing the building was to bring it back to its original state and at the same time make it practical and comfortable for its purpose. "I would like to explain that at the first stage it was decided that the much-needed structural work would be finished and in order not to interrupt classes for a long period the internal cleaning and painting of the building were done room by room at certain intervals."

Dieguez said that the building was being dedicated to the City of Georgetown and its students and teachers who keep it alive. According to him the centre has been reopened with a record number of students, three times the average number of 50 to 60 students who have been attending classes each semester. The students are being taught courses in Portuguese, Brazil's native language.

He pointed out that both Brazilians and Guyanese citizens perceived that the Partial Scope Agreement recently signed between the two countries, the completion of the bridge over the Takutu River and the establishment of a broad Technical Cooperation Programme in the area of agriculture will enhance new job opportunities for Guyanese who can speak Portuguese and for English-speaking Brazilians.

"I hope that our students will find the knowledge and the skills they are seeking and that the Portuguese language will open new perspectives in their lives."

He quoted a statement recently made by President Bharrat Jagdeo during his visit to Suriname: "Borders are not barriers, but gateways to communication between peoples." He adapted that to say that languages were not barriers, but gateways to communication between peoples and to use language as a gateway "you just have to learn it."

The ceremony, which commenced at about 5 pm was also attended by former president, Janet Jagan, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Clement Rohee, and scores of past and present students. Hinds, in his short presentation, commended the ambassador and the staff of the Brazilian embassy for refurbishing the building and assured them that his government and the rest of the Guyanese society would uphold the dignity and standard of the centre.

"Brazil is an important neighbour to Guyana and with all the talk about trade between the two states this is the ideal opportunity for Guyanese..., Hinds said.

Giving a history of the centre, Director, Ellis Domiguez de Sousa, informed that it was inaugurated in Georgetown on March 15, 1970. This year will mark 32 years of cultural interaction with Guyanese. He noted that the centre was linked directly to the Brazilian Embassy and it constituted the main tool of the execution of the cultural policy of the Brazilian Government in Guyana.

The director said that the main objective of the centre was to implement systematic and free teaching of Portuguese for those who were interested. He said that the centre has a team of teachers, which comprised Brazilians and Guyanese who studied at universities in Brazil. "We also intend to promote Brazilian culture among the Guyanese people through courses in the Brazilian culinary arts, exhibitions of Brazilian paintings and sculpture, diffusion of Brazilian popular music through radio and television and exchanges in the field of sports and culture."

He pointed out that even though Brazil was the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America, the language was spoken by approximately 200 million people and was the fifth most spoken language in the world. In addition, the director said, Portuguese is spoken as the official language in Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome & Principe, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.

He informed that the building comprises six classrooms, one library and laboratory and other facilities. Classes start at the beginners level and go up to advanced levels and are of two years or six terms duration.

He also announced the intention to create intensive Portuguese courses for businesspersons, as well as officers of the Customs and Trade Administration, Immigration Department and the Police Force. He said they were also looking at the possibility of offering a correspondence course for those who live far from Georgetown. At the end of the ceremony those in attendance were treated to Brazilian delicacies and Latin music. (Nigel Williams)