President opens library in Amerindian hostel
-- boon for hinterland youths studying in city By Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
September 21, 2002

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A STUDENT of the Government Technical Institute cuts the ribbon to symbolically open the library. The student is assisted by President Jagdeo and Minister Rodrigues. (Delano Williams photo)
HINTERLAND youths studying in the city will have access to their own library and computer facilities now in place at the Amerindian Hostel, Princes Street, Georgetown.

The small but important centre was commissioned during a simple ceremony on Thursday afternoon.

Among officials at the gathering were President Bharrat Jagdeo, Amerindian Affairs Minister Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues, Canadian High Commissioner Mr. Serge Marcoux and representatives of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Minister Rodrigues explained that the request for the establishment of the library was made to the President a year ago during the Amerindian Month celebrations, and he had then promised to make it a reality.

She said that more than $5M was spent on books, computers and furniture for the facility. Assistance came from UNICEF and the Canadian High Commission.

The minister expressed the hope that with the students now having access to their own library and computers, more than the six who left for Cuba yesterday, will be eligible for studies in Cuba as well as on other scholarship programmes.

Rodrigues urged the students to make full use of the facility and stressed that should they destroy it, the chance will not come again.

The students provided the list of books needed for the library, the Chronicle understands.

In his address to the gathering, President Jagdeo said he had experienced no reservations about responding to the plea for the library since his Government is committed to enhancing the education sector. He said this was another opportunity to prepare the youths for the future.

"Education is absolutely important in the changing world. I have often spoken of the need for people to be prepared for the changing world. And if we were to examine what is happening we will see that the areas that are experiencing the fastest growth, the areas that are providing more and more opportunities are the areas that focus on knowledge and ideas," he stated.

According to the President, if the nation is not prepared for the changing world, it will not just remain in the state it is, but will fall further behind.

"So we have to focus on developing our people, and what better way than to start with our young people?"

The Head of State re-emphasised that education is the Government's priority, not only in the allocation of resources, but also in the development of a whole new strategy for the education sector.

Among other things, Mr. Jagdeo said, this involves more training for teachers, and he noted that today there are training programmes for teachers all across Guyana, so that those in the hinterland and rural areas do not necessarily have to travel to Georgetown for training.

Attention is also being placed on curriculum reform, the President said, and he pointed out that greater emphasis is on training and on access to tertiary education through the extension of campuses.

"And we hope that with Distance Education we will be able to offer tertiary training and improve secondary training in the hinterland areas in the future," President Jagdeo added.

"These are all important things, but most important to me is the fact that this tradition has always been biased, and the hinterland people never had the opportunities that people on the coast had. We have a deliberate policy to narrow that gap. We may not be able to eliminate it totally but we can narrow it...," he stated.

Mr. Jagdeo explained that it is for this reason that secondary education programmes have been extended to Regions One (Barima/Waini), Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro/Siparuni), Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo).

He pointed out that things are progressing since more children from the hinterland communities are going to study in Georgetown and are attending the top schools.

The President promised that the Government will extend tertiary education to the disadvantaged areas and communities.

"My Government will continue with this policy of putting education first. That is our top priority..."

President Jagdeo added that the Government is pumping a lot of resources into the coastal areas as well noting that "we are making investments into education". This expenditure, he said, has long-term benefits.

"Many of you here today are fortunate since there are many others within the hinterland communities who want the opportunity to come out and go to school," he said.

Rodrigues was asked to look into a situation in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) where some students cannot go to school since there are not enough places in the secondary school. This problem is compounded by an age restriction for acceptance in the dormitory.

"We cannot deny them an education for fear that anything might happen in the dormitory. We cannot do that. We have to make sure we work on this...they want to go to school. Their parents want them to go to school, but they can't go. And they are wasting their lives and we have to correct that...The education system is still not responsive to the needs of all our children...," the President said.

He told the students that they have the support of the Government, which will do all it can to make their lives easier as they try to secure an education for themselves.