UG churns out 1243 graduates
Vice-Chancellor laments fragile finances,teaching quality by Johann Earle
Stabroek News
November 10, 2003

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The University of Guyana’s (UG) financial position continues to be fragile and there has been little improvement in the area of teaching quality, Vice-Chancellor Professor James Rose told Saturday’s annual convocation.

Rose said the Government - the institution’s largest benefactor - contributed $505.7M in student fees, $392M in an annual subvention and a capital vote of $214.6M during the 2002 - 2003 fiscal year.

Vice-Chancellor Professor James Rose said that those contributions have increased by 38% from the previous year. Speaking at the 37th Convocation on the Turkeyen campus on Saturday, Rose said that in order for UG to sustain comparable levels of efficiency, the university’s administration has prepared and submitted project proposals to a number of funding agencies. Among the agencies are the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the United Nations Develop-ment Programme (UNDP) and the Canadian Inter-national Development Agency (CIDA). “We have also sought to pursue the projects previously submitted to other donors such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Japanese Govern-ment and the Organisation of American States (OAS)”, he said.

Dark clouds loomed over Turkeyen on Saturday, but the convocation ceremony promised a new, clear horizon for 1,243 students who were conferred with their degrees, diplomas or certificates, for which they toiled in the face of “tremendous difficulties.”

Guyana’s best and brightest were the focus of the three-hour-long ceremony at the beginning of which graduands made the traditional parade on the grounds of their Alma Mater, arrayed in ceremonial gowns displaying the colours of the Guyana flag.

However, the 2003 graduating class represents a decrease by 34 persons from last year’s, in which 1,277 persons graduated, Rose said in his address, in which he quoted from his annual report for 2002 - 2003.

The Vice-Chancellor said that the distribution of graduates by faculty remains the same as last year with the Faculty of Social Sciences again being the single largest source of graduates with 576 (46%). He said too that there was a decrease in the number of graduates from the science and technology-based faculties from 394 last year to 322 this year. According to Rose, females this year numbered 816 or 65% of the graduating class compared to last year’s 780 or 61%.

Rafael Abdulla of the Faculty of Technology was adjudged the best graduating Bachelor’s Degree student and he received the President’s Medal for his outstanding performance.

The Chancellor’s Medal went to Romona Bennett for being the second best graduating Bachelor’s Degree student. Bennett is an English student from the Faculty of Arts.

Former President of the University of Guyana Students’ Society (UGSS) Robert Bourne copped the Council of the University Prize for the student who has achieved at least a ‘Pass with Credit’ and has made the greatest contribution in other areas of university activities. Bourne is a student of the Faculty of Education.

The University of Guyana UGSS Award went to Alana Brassington of the Faculty of Arts. This award is for the graduating student other than the winner of the Council’s Prize who has attained a ‘Pass with Credit’ and has made an outstanding contribution in other areas of University activities.

Dillon Raynel Husbands of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry was awarded the K.A. Juman-Yassin Sports Award for the graduating student who has participated at a consistently high standard in sports. For making the greatest contribution to the cultural life of the university, Kim Lucas of the Faculty of Arts received the Dennis Irvine Award.

Terrence Lewis, a student of the Faculty of Social Sciences, received the Harold Drayton Alumni Award of the University of Guyana Guild of Graduates, Ontario for being the graduating student who achieved the highest grade point average (GPA) in one of the three faculties - Arts, Natural Sciences or Social Sciences and who demonstrated leadership through practical involvement in community and/or social services irrespective of sex, race, religion, creed or political persuasion.

In his Valedictory Address, Abdulla thanked his parents for making it possible for him to pursue his studies. “We have achieved something valuable...we should continually strive to make this country better. You must decide what your achievement meant and how you want others to perceive you,” he said.

Rose commended the graduating class, stating: “You have persevered in the face of tremendous difficulties. As if the normal limitations of our campus life were not a sufficient challenge, this year you were required to brave extremely hazardous and life threatening conditions to complete your course of studies and make the parade of graduands here this afternoon...”

The Vice-Chancellor said too that in the coming year the university administration in collaboration with all segments of the campus community will seek to reinforce collective strengths and minimise collective weaknesses in an effort to fulfill the university’s mission as an institution of excellence geared for national development.

Rose made the point that there has been little improvement in the area of teaching quality. “The university’s continued dependence on a cadre of inexperienced young lecturers makes it extremely difficult to ensure requisite levels of competence,” he said.

The evening’s highpoint was the announcement of the name ‘Bharrat Jagdeo’ during the distribution of the certificates. This elicited a huge roar and applause from the crowd as Bharrat, not the President, went up to the stage for his scroll. The Deans of the respective faculties presented the graduands to the Pro-Chancellor of the university, Dr Prem Misir, who handed out the scrolls. The Guyana Police Force Band played music at intervals. The band’s pieces included an Anniversary Waltz, composed by A.L. Dublin and Dave Franklin; a filmi song Mera Dil Pukare Aaja and a Band Tango composed by Glen Osser.

In delivering the feature address, United States Ambassador to Guyana Roland Bullen said that he was humbled when he was told that he was the first in the diplomatic corps asked to deliver an address at the convocation. He said that as this year marks UG’s 40th anniversary, the convocation was a momentous occasion.

Bullen stated that he was heartened to see that the university was fostering links with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, USA, through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the furtherance of a biodiversity programme. Bullen also cited the exchange programme with the Florida Gulf Coast University for faculty and student exchanges. He said that these relationships will continue to promote UG’s prominence overseas.

The theme for UG’s 40th anniversary ‘A time to Reconnect’ is a fitting one given the challenges faced in the Guyanese Diaspora, Bullen said, adding that one of the most important qualities of university graduates is the ability to deal with failure constructively.

He told the graduands that they are the most valuable assets their country has and that they should reflect on the future as they go forward in their lives.