A message that is still relevant
Guyana Chronicle
February 22, 2003

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THE relevance and importance of tertiary institutions in the developmental process of any country can never be overstated, as these institutions have the pivotal role of, among other things, training a cadre of professionals and academicians who will assume the mantle of charting the direction of national development.

There can be no compromise in the establishment, development and expansion of these institutions, especially in the context of the rapid global technological changes that are taking place.

Therefore, the vision of the late President Cheddi Jagan in establishing the University of Guyana, amidst great pessimism from many quarters (some even referred to its humble beginnings at Queen's College as `Jagan's night school') is today very pertinent to the social and economic problems that the country still faces.

But being such a rare visionary he saw what many could not have seen at the time and pursued the idea.

And here we are, 40 years later, with an institution that Guyanese can be truly proud of.

Of course, UG is not without problems and it has its share of difficulties.

Some have even questioned its status as a university.

However, while criticism is useful when the occasion warrants it, it would be more useful once having recognised the problems that all involved work unitedly to find appropriate solutions to resolve the difficulties.

It must be noted too that 40 years is not a long time for a university when one considers that many of the world's premier tertiary institutions have evolved into institutions of academic excellence over hundreds of years.

In addition, there was a long period when UG was totally neglected and starved of funds and resources.

It was also a victim of the policy of paramountcy of the party espoused for years by the former government.

Those who want to remember will acknowledge that the entrance levels were lowered and compulsory national service for entry into the university became the predominant requirement.

Professors and other academicians who were opposed to the then government were harassed and expelled.

Many would remember the infamous expulsion of Professor Mohamed Insanally and the blatant refusal to employ the late Dr. Walter Rodney, one of Guyana's most brilliant academics.

So when one analyses the difficulties at the university, one should do so with some historical perspective.

What Guyana would have been like today without a university is anybody's guess.

The architect of the university, Dr. Jagan, saw the relevance of a local tertiary institution not only in national developmental terms but as an opportunity for the less wealthy to have an opportunity to pursue higher education.

In a speech in 1963 on the establishment of the university, Dr. Jagan said:

"The development programme of a country, which does not possess a university, is severely handicapped. It has to rely on the services of professional men imported from abroad, or on sending students to study in foreign countries.

"Both of these methods are expensive, representing a steady drain on foreign reserves. The training received by students abroad is often not well suited to the needs of their country due to geographical, cultural and economic differences."

Undoubtedly, this message is still relevant today as it was 40 years ago.

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