Saving the social fabric of the nation
By Dr Joyce Jonas
Guyana Chronicle
December 3, 2002

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All of the systems that should make social life run smoothly and equitably have eroded. We are in a deplorable situation…So often I ask myself, ‘Where do we do from here?’

VERY few ordinary citizens in Guyana -- I won't include the politicians because they have a gift for seeing things differently -- very few ordinary citizens would disagree with me when I say, as I do now, that the whole social fabric is tearing apart. All of the systems that should make social life run smoothly and equitably have eroded. We are in a deplorable situation.

In our schools, children, who scrambled to get their Grade Two in CXC at the last sitting are now teachers themselves, preparing the current fifth formers for next year's exams. In our hospitals, patients are left to the mercy of unqualified personnel, or even worse, to the merciless ministrations of nurses and doctors whose creed seems to be that man was born to suffer; therefore let him suffer.

Even in some private businesses the work ethic is often missing; only recently I paid my insurance premium to a young cashier who conducted the entire transaction without even looking at me, let alone wishing me a good morning. I'm talking about training -- rather, the lack of it. Too many of our teachers have themselves been taught by people who knew next to nothing about the art of teaching, and they are now passing on their bad habits to another generation.

Our nurses have strayed far from the ethos that the sick should be handled gently and with compassion as well as with skills and vigilant care and they are passing on their bad habits to others. I could mention other professions -- the Police, the Public Service -- the chaos in the Registry comes to mind. In so many areas there is an urgent need to break the cycle of poorly trained instructors teaching their half-baked methods to others. Our country urgently needs a large injection of rigorous training and a vigorous work ethic.

True, staff shortages are a problem all around, but even the staff we have on the job in so many cases need to be re-trained -- and it's no use having people training others when they themselves were badly trained or trained within a system that condones shoddy performance. So often I ask myself this question: Where do we go from here? How do we apply the brakes and change direction? The only conclusion I can come to is this: We need re-training in almost every field and at almost every level.

Let our Government approach friendly nations abroad requesting assistance with training programmes. But let them ask for skilled, experienced people who have recently retired, are receiving their pension, but still feel they have a contribution to make. Let these individuals come for a six-to-12-month stint to work without pay alongside our Police, our nurses, our teachers, our transportation providers, and re-train them. Let those of us who can do so provide food and housing for these volunteers while they are here; so that the only cost involved would be their air passage.

We human beings learn by example. Sadly, though, we have reached the point where very, very few outstanding role models remain. So mediocrity rules. To lift standards once again, I suggest that we bring in an army of volunteer retirees to share with us the benefit of their long years on the job in the way, I have outlined.

And before I close, let me say this: if you don't like my ideas, don't just criticise -- please come up with a better one. We must do something -- and soon.

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