Bridging the gap in tertiary education access
--Guyanese students given a remarkable opportunity A GINA Feature
By Sahodra Rampersaud
Guyana Chronicle
September 16, 2003

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TERITARY education for most Guyanese students in the past has been a mere dream with few of them being able to afford it. With the country having a single university located in Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica), access and cost are major problems.

However, the situation in Guyana took a turn for the better, when Government improved the University of Guyana’s capacity by adding another campus in Berbice. The efforts did not stop there.

During a visit in 2001, to the Spanish-speaking country of Cuba located in the Caribbean region, President Bharrat Jagdeo secured 250 scholarships from the Cuban President Dr. Fidel Castro. The scholarships will be awarded to local students, including Amerindians, over a period of three years.

For this magnanimous gesture, the Government of Guyana is extremely grateful to the Cuban Government. The economic difficulties that plague Cuba are many and that is what makes the gesture even more generous.

The 350 students will pursue degress in Medicine, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Culture, Sport, Agriculture, Architecture and other areas of study under the joint auspices of the Guyana and Cuban Governments.

The Cuban Scholarship Programme is managed by the Public Service Ministry in collaboration with the Office of the President. In accordance with procedures, the Ministry advertised nationally for applications to fill the slots for the academic year 2002/2003. The first batch was selected countrywide, and included 124 Government-sponsored students. Under the scholarship programme, these students are being given a stipend of Cdn $50 per month.

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) sponsored four students. Two were sponsored by the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) and one by the City Council. They all left Guyana on September 30, 2002 for Cuba. Among these were hinterland students.

That batch of students will cost the host country about US$4M.

The awardees of Cuban scholarships, through the joint auspices of the Guyana and Cuban Governments were elated at having been given an opportunity to pursue their degrees in various fields.

Prior to their departure, many of the recipients of the scholarships praised both Governments for helping to make their dreams become a reality. Many of them said they would not have been able to afford an education of this nature without a scholarship.

“Thank you on behalf of the single largest batch of students going to Cuba for this privilege and honour to study. We shall excel, ensuring that our Cuban facilitators and our country can be proud of us,” one student Javed Shadick had said.

An aspiring Agronomist Colin Watson, was very “thankful to everybody who supported this scholarship and I must say thanks to our President for doing such a great thing for our Guyanese youths. We promise that we will make the most out of it and make him, as well as the rest of the country proud.”

“Just knowing that I am there to help out Guyana, I will make the sacrifice to succeed. I think this is a wonderful thing (the scholarship programme) that Government is doing. Most of us could not have had an opportunity to go and study and make our dreams become careers,” Reneka Veersammy, Human Medicine student said.

Two brothers Kelvin and Michael Thorne who will be studying Civil Engineering and Architecture respectively said, “It is a privilege for us to go and study with the Government’s assistance because otherwise we would not have been able to afford it. We are very happy to be recipients of this award.”

The sole student pursuing Computer Engineering, Alaric Abraham, who is also an Amerindian, expressed his pleasure at being awarded a place among the 131 students.

Several parents also voiced their appreciation for the opportunity given to their children to qualify themselves for professional careers.

Mr. And Mrs. Richard MacDonald whose son is a medical student, said what the Government is doing “is wonderful, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am very grateful that a chance has come to my son, and I am thankful to those persons who have made it possible for him to have a chance at success.

The students on their return will be expected to serve Guyana for five years.

President Jagdeo charged the students to make service to their homeland a priority, as Government is looking forward to their services.

He cautioned them to portray good images, as they are Guyana’s ambassadors.

The students and their families were also entertained at a reception hosted by President Jagdeo before they left Guyana to become professionals.

It was a mixture of joy and sadness at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, as the recipients of the Cuban Scholarships said their goodbyes to relatives and friends who accompanied them to the airport for their non-stop flight to Cuba.

This is the largest single batch of Guyanese students ever to be awarded scholarships to Cuba.

For the academic year September 2003 through 2004, 94 Guyanese students will go to Cuba under the programme.

An orientation ceremony was held yesterday for the Cuban special scholarship awardees at the Umana Yana, Georgetown.

President Jagdeo hosted the farewell ceremony for awardees and their parents/guardians.