Keeping the priorities right, in spite of the difficulties Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 4, 2002

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IT IS universally accepted that there is an interconnection between poverty and education, with those mired in poverty being unable to get a sound education, and those without a sound education being unable to break out of the vicious poverty cycle.

Of course there have been the odd cases of the "rags to riches" but even in those instances education, whether formal or informal, played some part in the success of the lucky individuals.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) more than 500,000,000 children live on less than US$1 a day and more than 100,000,000 children are out of school because of poverty, discrimination or lack of resources.

UNICEF adds: "Now it is the turn of those who hold political power and the public trust - those with the greatest opportunity and the greatest responsibility to bring about change.

"The millions of people in every country of the world who have pledged their support to the cause of children's rights will be watching more closely than they may have ever watched before.

"Those who would call themselves leaders must give all that is needed - no less will do - to create a world fit for children."

And that indomitable statesman, former South African President, Mr. Nelson Mandela once said: "Any country, any society, which does not care for its children is no nation at all."

In this regard, it was encouraging to hear President Bharrat Jagdeo's reassurance this week of the Government's commitment to improving the educational standards in Guyana.

During his address to the sixth National Award Ceremony to honour the outstanding performers at the primary and secondary school levels, at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown this week, he said that a sound education is a golden achievement and that the education sector has a special place among the programmes of the Government.

"This sector will continue to receive my Government's fullest attention, support and of course, financial resources," the President pledged.

This is the correct road to follow in Guyana's desperate effort to reduce poverty and uplift living standards, especially for the underprivileged and downtrodden.

However, too often in the haste to promote educational development, there is the tendency to focus only on the academic aspect of education.

Consequently, "bright" children emerge who are often ill disciplined and unpatriotic and of poor character.

In this regard, it was even more heartening to hear the President mentioning that in the current restructuring of the education system, character development will form an integral part of the reform process.

Notably too, the Ministry of Education recently invited an expert, Dr. Nat Cooper, here to help with the formulation of a programme for character development.

This is a commendable initiative and shows that despite the existing grave difficulties, those in authority are still focused on the needs of the nation and its future aspirations and goals.

A sound education is a golden achievement and it is more than fitting that the education sector has a special place among the programmes of the Government.