President not pleased with bureaucracy in education system
Guyana Chronicle
January 23, 2007

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PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has called for a revolutionary approach in education, saying the bureaucracy in the system has become fossilised.

His call came Sunday at the graduation of students of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan Education Institute at Cornelia Ida, West Coast Demerara, which has for the past two years been recording outstanding successes in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams.

In his address to the graduands, parents and others at the ceremony, the Government Information Agency (GINA) said Mr. Jagdeo expressed his dissatisfaction with the national CSEC results and the education system.

“Frankly speaking, I am not pleased with the education system’s bureaucracy…because I think to some extent it has become fossilised. They work in sequential ways, not simultaneously; they have an evolutionary approach to education”, he said.

According to the agency, the President said the “world is moving at such a pace and our reports are not good enough to match the changing context of the world so we have to act in a revolutionary, not evolutionary way.”

The President said his dissatisfaction is not levelled at teachers but the system.

GINA said the President stated that for a long time he had suggested that the Education Ministry collaborate with the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) to develop special programmes which focus on primary subjects such as Mathematics and English.

“For years now I have been trying to get them to do things in Maths and English; very important areas for everything that we do. I said to them: prepare the learning materials for forms one to five, the whole course leading up to the exams and we will dedicate enough time on the national television or even set up a learning channel dedicated to education.”

According to GINA, Mr. Jagdeo said such programming would be very useful for those students who are not afforded the opportunity as the students of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan Education Institute to have one on one interaction with teachers.

“For those who still don’t have the possibility of interacting with teachers like you have here, they can supplement it with what they do in school by either the purchase or by free distribution of tapes,” President Jagdeo said.

The perception that many rural children are uneducated is a fallacy, the President said, adding that, in fact, “rural children are just as smart as children from anywhere else; it’s just the absence of opportunities.”

GINA said he told those at the ceremony that while they face challenges, there are children in other parts of the country who are more underprivileged.

“We don’t know how fortunate we are on the coast although this is a rural area. Before we got into office, Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine…never had a secondary school, not a single one. Children attended primary school and that was the end of their educational life. Since we have been in office, we have built secondary schools in some of the villages.”

He explained, however, that because of the remoteness and wide expanse of some villages in the hinterland, it is impossible to put a school in every village.

But President Jagdeo noted that this has not deterred Amerindian students from walking and paddling miles to be educated.

“I have seen (while driving down the Lethem road) a child walking five miles to school, who could not be more than seven or eight years old, dragging a little bag barefooted. In Pomeroon they paddle eight miles each morning to go to school and paddle back in the afternoon because they have a thirst for education. If they can make those sacrifices, why can’t we on the coast?”

GINA said the President recalled that during his tenure as Minister of Finance, $25M was set aside for the National Library to set up branches around the country.

“I said to them: buy a container, put it on a foundation, paint it up and put a little window and that can be the library so children can have access to books because I know growing up in the rural area how hard that was. They did not spend a cent,” the President revealed.

GINA said the government is continuing to work with parents, students and all stakeholders to broaden the reach of the education sector, providing each child with equal educational opportunities at all levels.

Principal of the institute, Pujya Swami Aksharanandaji, said the school now ranks fourth with a 76.36 per cent average and with students recording 100 per cent passes in many subjects, against the achievement at the national level.

President Jagdeo congratulated the principal, teachers and students of the institute on their outstanding achievements.

The Saraswati Vidya Niketan Education Institute was established in 2002 and entered students at the CSEC exams for the first time in 2005. It has both Science and Information Technology laboratories. The school also offers scholarships through its donors.

Twenty eight students graduated Sunday, with Kamini Singh emerging as the top achiever with five distinctions and three grade ones at the CSEC. She received the President’s Award.