The only hope for Guyana moving forward is an educated, motivated pool of youth who see Guyana as theirs. This new tax does nothing to further that vision, that sense of optimism, the idea that they can rise out of poverty.
I am neither a politician nor am I an Economist. I am simply an Educator. Having lived in Guyana for the past 38 years, my wife and I started School of Nations more than twenty years ago. We began School of Nations for very simple reasons, our two sons attended one of the leading Secondary schools in Georgetown. Each evening, when we sat down to eat and asked about their day at school, they said they had two or three classes with no teacher. We visited the school, met the Head Mistress and were casually informed, “don’t worry … we may get a Maths teacher next year.” That was motivation enough to try and offer an alternative.
I was then fortunate to undertake a UNICEF consultancy in Ghana in April 1997 and travelled to neighbouring Togoland one weekend to visit some Baha’i friends. They took me to a school they had started in the heart of the capital. The school was like an oasis of peace in troubled and very divided city. That was April 1997, four months later School of Nations opened its doors in Georgetown. From that modest beginning, twenty years later, Nations has two campuses, one in the heart of Georgetown, the other, a purely pro-bono school, in New Amsterdam. There are now more than 2,300 students from preschool to 6th Form and others pursuing International Diplomas, Degrees and MBA from centres of excellence like University of Cambridge, University of London, ABE and the Australian Institute of Business.
Some of those students arrive at Nations in the latest RAV 4s or BMWs. But others arrive on foot. Some represent some of the most affluent sectors of the Guyanese society. Less is perhaps known about the 40+ children at Nations on full or partial scholarships, or the 100 children from neighbouring Tiger Bay who, for the past five years, have come to Nations two or three afternoons per week for free classes in literacy, numeracy, the arts and music, probably even less people are aware that for 12 years Nations has operated a branch in New Amsterdam that is operated on a largely pro bono basis. It is of course because of the success of Nations in Georgetown that we are able to offer these services to the wider community. These are not acts of patronising charity; each of these innovations have fundamentally enriched the wider Nations family.
One of the most popular programmes that we offer is a series of courses from the Association of Business Executives (ABE) from UK. They offer courses in business, management, travel and tourism and computer technology at 232 centres in more than 80 countries worldwide. Nations is now the #1 centre in the Caribbean and the #5 centre in the world in terms of the number of students enrolled with ABE.
Plans are now in train to offer these courses in Berbice and in Linden. The very same ABE courses are offered in Trinidad at twice the cost. Moreover, the MBA programme that Nations offers from AIB in Australia is also taught at four centres in Trinidad at more than twice the cost. Nations continues to strive to offer these courses at the most economical rates to suit the capacity of the Guyanese pocket.
And then we are contacted by GRA a couple of days ago, to say that, with immediate effect, all these fees need to be increased by 14%. For those who come to Nations daily in luxury cars this new additional tax is an annoyance.
But to the 16-year-old school leavers who are part of the 800 + ABE cohort, some of whom pay the fees in G$100 bills, this new imposition may simply mean they stop the course, stay home and loose hope and add to the growing numbers of the unemployed and unemployable.
We then read daily of the huge oil finds in Guyana and then we hear that the reward for the people of this country is an additional 14% tax. The only hope for Guyana moving forward is an educated, motivated pool of youth who see Guyana as theirs. This new tax does nothing to further that vision, that sense of optimism, the idea that they can rise out of poverty.
I said at the beginning I am not a politician nor an economist. But this letter is addressed to the politicians, economists, and strategists who made the decision to impose this levy and to simply ask them to seek some other means to raise revenue. A tax on education is surely not the path to take in 2017.
Dr Brian O’Toole
School of Nations
41 New Market St
Cell 661 8773
E: [email protected]