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Recently, the widow of Dr. Jagan, former President Mrs. Janet Jagan, reflected on the contributions the University of Guyana has already made to the Guyanese society since its establishment.
“It has done a great deal in educating Guyanese for all professions and a variety of jobs in teaching and science, education and medicine. So, we have that reputation now of having a society where a considerable number of young people have been educated,” Mrs. Jagan recalled
Mrs. Jagan feels the University is now “an established national institution, which enjoys respectable academic accreditation worldwide.”
Dr. Cheddi Jagan was the founder of the University of Guyana, which had its humble beginnings at Queen’s College Secondary School in 1963.
“At that time we had limited funds and were still a Colony, which prevented us from raising finances to start a real university, but Dr. Jagan’s idea was, ‘anyhow we’ll make a start,’” Mrs. Jagan recalled.
At Queens College, there was a Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. In the early 1960s, the institute was derogatorily called ‘Jagan’s Night School’.
“No one anticipated that the University would really be established,” Mrs. Jagan recounted.
Perhaps, the University of Guyana has evolved into Dr. Jagan’s initial idea for the institution. It has matured into the premier learning institution of the country and produces about 3000 graduates annually. According to Mrs. Jagan, it was not an easy road since “the University of Guyana was established forty years ago against all odds.”
Initially a small fee of $100 was required, this was however revoked in 1976 after the implementation of free education from Nursery to University. A cost attached to University education was later reintroduced in 1994 under the University's Cost Recovery Programme.
The construction of the Cheddi Jagan Lecture Rooms at the Turkeyen Campus was not an easy project, but the cooperation of several institutions and individuals contributed to its success.
Funds for the project were raised through the hosting of several dinners and other social events that were organised by the Trustees of the University of Guyana. Appeals were also made to firms and individuals to acquire funds for the project. Some $35 million dollars was raised.
Additionally, there were a number of non-monetary donations, all of which helped to make this project a success. In the words of Dr. David Chandarbali, Registrar of the University of Guyana, “… the total sum acquired (was) something around $50M.”
The building was handed over at a simple ceremony, in the presence of Trustees of the fund and University officials. Mr. Yesu Persuad, Chairman of the University of Guyana Endowment Fund officially handed over the keys for the building to Vice- Chancellor Dr. James Rose on December 19, 2002. This formed part of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the University of Guyana.
Mrs. Jagan paid tribute to Dr. Cedric Nunes, who as a former Minister of Education during the PPP Administration in 1963, was also one of the driving forces behind the development of a strong and stable premier educational institution. “Dr. Cedric Nunes was our Minister of Education at the time… Nunes was an educator and his knowledge went a long way in making this a reality,” she said.
History records that in 1963 Dr. Nunes presented in Parliament a Provisional Paper No. 2 of 1963 `A Memorandum on Higher Education’ which presented the Government’s point that the rationale behind the establishment of the University of Guyana was on the basis of financial, educational and philosophical grounds.
It also identified the need for local training to provide skilled manpower on the threshold of political independence.
After considerable debate, the Ordinance was finally passed on April 19, 1963 for the establishment of the University of Guyana. Subsequent to deliberations on curriculum, faculties, class hours, staff and funding, the University eventually opened its doors on October 1, 1963, using the facility of Queens College.
During this time too, Mrs. Jagan recalled that primary and secondary education were at very high levels. Wherever Guyanese students went they were very successful because of the basic education they received in their own country. This attests to Dr. Jagan’s interest in having the most progressive curriculum.
The foregoing project was initially conceived in 1993 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the University. Dr. Jagan at the time thought that something remarkable should be done for the University. Mr. Yesu Persaud, Managing Director of the Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) and now Chairman of the University of Guyana’s Endowment Fund, was chosen by Dr. Jagan to spearhead the project.
A number of other persons were enlisted to assist, including Dr. Leslie Chin, Mrs. Marjorie Da Silva, Mr. Egbert Carter, Mr. Lloyd Searwar, Mr. Conrad Plummer and Mr. Mujtaba Nasir. Of these persons, six were Trustees of the fund.
“They came together and formed the Trust Deed, which provides the legitimacy to raise funds and proceed with the project,” Dr. Chanderbali explained.
The Management of the University and the Board of Trustees met on several occasions to assess the needs of the University and brainstorm the likely contributions they could make. “A decision was eventually taken to build a classroom building at the University of Guyana Campus,” Dr. Chanderbali said.
The Cheddi Jagan Lecture Rooms has three floors. The lower floor which measures 95ft x 25ft is entirely open and can accommodate approximately 120 students. The other two floors have a total of four classrooms, each classroom measures 40ft x 25ft feet wide.
The entire building can accommodate about 300 students. According to Dr. Chanderbali, the new accommodating facility is not to solve the problem of accommodating students in classes, but it will certainly go a long way.
Initially it was never intended to construct lecture rooms, but to create something much more elaborate. What evolved, although long overdue, is fitting for the man with the initial vision for making the University of Guyana a reality. In Mrs. Jagan’s opinion, “It’s a good sign to have the lecture rooms in his name as a reminder of his input, and that he was basically the founder of the University.”
Other significant facilities that were established to honour the work of Dr. Jagan include the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri and the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, formally known as the 'Red House'. “The Medical Council also established the Cheddi Jagan Dental Unit which was a very good dedication, because though Jagan was a politician and a statesman, he was originally a professional dentist and a very fine dentist,” Mrs. Jagan pointed out.
The 40th anniversary celebrations of the University continued with the launching of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) 2003/2004 telephone directory. A number of persons have been identified as part of the steering committee to plan events for these anniversary celebrations.
A 13-member planning committee consisting of Mr. Hydar Ally, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Donald Sinclair, Coordinator of Tourism Studies, Mr. Deryck Bernard, Dean faculty of Arts, Mr. Vic Insanally, Managing Director, Guyenterprise Advertising Agency, Mr. Christopher Ram, Managing Partner, Ram and Mc Rae and Ms. Carmen Jarvis, Secretary General, Guyana National Commission on UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and
The month of March represents both the birth and death anniversaries of the Late Dr. Cheddi Jagan who was born on March 22, 1918 and died on March 6, 1997.