'Red letter' day for Berbice
Ninety-three graduate from Tain Campus
By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
December 3, 2002

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Last Saturday was a 'red letter' day for Berbicians both East and West and in particular the University of Guyana community.

On that day, ninety-three students of the Berbice Campus of the University of Guyana created history when they were conferred with Certificates and Diplomas by Vice-Chancellor, Dr James Rose at the campus' first Convocation ceremony. Never before had Berbicians witnessed the pomp and ceremony long associated with Convocation ceremonies at university campuses throughout the world. Members of the University's Academic Board and Council, education officials, parents, relatives, regional officials, friends and well-wishers in formal and not so formal attire all converged on the sprawling lawns of the Tain Campus to be a part of this history-making event.

The ceremony began just a few minutes after the scheduled 4:15 pm start with a parade of the graduands followed by the Vice-Chancellor's procession accompanied by musical renditions from the Guyana Police Force Band under the baton of Assistant Commissioner, Cecil Bovell DSM. In one sentence, Vice-Chancellor, Dr James Rose declared the Convocation open. In November 2000, the Tain campus was established and registered 135 full-time students in three Divisions after what guest speaker Dr Dale Bisnauth described as "a tortuous gestation". The three Divisions were Arts and General Studies, Education and Social Sciences. They offered two-year undergraduate certificate programmes in Education and Diploma programmes in Accountancy, Marketing, Public Management, Social Work, English and History. Last Saturday forty-eight students graduated with Diplomas from the Social Sciences Division; thirty-eight with Certificates from the Education Division and seven from Arts and General Studies.

Delivering the feature address was Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Dr Dale Bisnauth. In somewhat overcast conditions the former Education Minister in his address noted that "the origins of the Campus has had its myths..that it was intended to supersede in importance and eventually replace that at Turkeyen. That resources originally meant for Turkeyen would be maliciously channelled to Tain to the disadvantage and deliberate impoverishment of Turkeyen." The project he said "was touted in some quarters as having a political and not an educational motivation."

"Government is aware", he continued, "that despite our rich natural resources, we would only remain potentially rich if our people are not developed. We are aware that unless we have a sufficiently large enough cadre of appropriately educated, suitably skilled and even multi-skilled people we will be in trouble as a nation."

According to the Minister "our young people must be educated in the relevant arts and sciences and they must be technically and technologically equipped to function in the several sectors and sub-sectors of the national economy. This is the only way we will be able to exploit out national resources responsibly in the interest of all our people. Tain", he declared, "is an attempt to make tertiary education accessible and affordable to young people in Berbice...this is the only reason behind this campus".

Earlier, Director, Dr Parsram Thakur in his address said the campus was "celebrating a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of success. We are celebrating the triumph over anxieties and adversities. How could we forget the anticipation and frustration of November 2000?" Noting that 135 students enrolled at the Campus in 2000; 144 in 2001 and 177 in 2002, the Director said "the significance of a Berbice Campus lies in the figures....and the service we are offering to the entire community of Berbice and to the nation. The Degree programme, he disclosed, "is well underway with 43 students enrolled in Education and 9 in Public Management."

According to Dr Thakur "on top of the agenda for the coming year is a Berbice-based staff." At the moment there are only five full-time lecturers at the Campus. "I ask that we aggressively make every effort to fulfill this need. As you can see we have grown significantly in three years and availability of our teaching staff has not kept pace. Courses are left undone because of need for staff." Another great concern he said is the need for greater autonomy. "Bureaucracy must facilitate not frustrate. Putting a needed Secretary in place should not take months and seeking greater autonomy is not a subversive activity. We subscribe to any form of healthy accountability be it fiscal, be it custodial", he told the University's administration assembled on the platform. It is the intention of the Campus to introduce Health Sciences and Technology for the next academic year. "Berbice Campus is an experimentation in education and we have the time, the place to venture, to become innovative, to become responsive to growth and the change" the Director concluded.

Bisnauth, contending that Guyana needs "its sharpest minds and its keenest intellects", urged the graduands to remain in Guyana to serve their country out of a sense of patriotism and loyalty. "The greatest disappointment and the saddest blow you can cause and strike will be for you to become part of the brain drain that has left this country bereft of some of its sons and daughters. This is a loss we can no longer afford...our national development cannot allow it." He pointed out that "tertiary education is still subsidised in two ways...through the national purse and from the services of your tutors who are not adequately compensated. You owe this country, you have to give back something for what you have achieved", he told the graduands.

"Go out there and do the University a service and a favour even as you do yourself proud in the eyes of those who dare to question still the quality of delivery and attainment at the University of Guyana. Refute those arguments by the quality of excellence of your work and conduct" he concluded.

The Director's Prize for the best Graduating Diploma or Certificate student was won by Shafiran Bhajan who secured a distinction in the Certificate in Education [Administration] programme. The Regional Chairman's Prize for the best graduating student in the Division of Arts and General Studies went to Shaundel Phillips. The Guysuco Prize for the second best graduating Diploma or Certificate student went to Muneshwarie Parbudial [Social Sciences]. Other prize winners included Deryn Moore, Rajkumar Sookraj, Grace Lambert, Dolendrie Rupan, Rommel Etwaroo, Vadyawattie Ramphal, Hemchand Balram, Hulda Chung, Forbes Munroe and Mohamed Mursalin.

At 5:10 the overcast conditions gave way to a heavy drizzle and eventually a massive downpour which threatened the remainder of the proceedings. Invitees and graduands scurried for every conceivable cover that was available on campus including the platform.

However, the rains had not come to stay and by 5:30 as dusk fell on the Corentyne Coast, the historic Convocation was again underway after a quick mopping up exercise.

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