The University of Guyana (UG) is set to achieve a greater level of resonance following the installation of its ninth Chancellor, renowned educator, Dr Eon Nigel Harris.
The George Walcott Lecture Theatre (GWLT), of the Turkeyen Campus, was home to pomp and ceremony Wednesday evening when President David Granger, Ministers of the Government, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of other local, regional and international institutions gathered to witness the inauguration of Professor Harris, who colleagues said has a remarkable record of service as a researcher, administrator and an accomplished university leader.
Harris has occupied the seat of Chancellor, replacing Dr Compton Bourne, whose two-year term ended back in 2011. He recently demitted office as Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), after serving for some 11 years.
Principal and Pro Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Professor Clement Sankat said UG has inherited a “remarkable human being”, who has been instrumental in transforming the status quo at UWI, expanding the scope of tertiary education throughout the Caribbean.
“It is his leadership which saw an unprecedented enrolment in the University of the West Indies, from 29,000 students to 50,000 students…he was the Vice Chancellor who established the fourth campus and the newest campus, so that the University could better serve the needs of the Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean and to also engage in online and distance education.”
Professor Harris was very earnest in his plea for support from all stakeholders and interested partners to work together to raise the standard of Guyana’s premier tertiary institution.
He said while UG has been able to prosper over the last 50 years, it is important that Guyanese reflect on the developments and advancements around the world.
He spoke of the astounding global events that have transformed the world, noting that Guyana and its university need to come up to standard.
He said that while Guyana should not shy away from celebrating its achievements, the most optimistic must see that progress has been insufficient and that considerable work needs to be done to change the prospects.
According to Dr Harris, given the profound changes in the world, it is imperative that all understand the need to participate in the global revolution. And the University must be a critical participant in the change. And it must be done between two narratives of Guyana, one where the World Bank had recorded the country as having low income, low life expectancy, with poor schooling and the other, from an infomercial published by Forbes Magazine, which spoke of the country’s magnificent natural resources.
“It is for us to decide which Guyana we want – one that is the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere with relatively low life expectancy and average income compared to our neighbours, or one that celebrates and sustainably capitalises on our vast forests and biodiversities.”
He said the change can only occur if university academics and administrators, Private Sector representatives and leaders of Government create a vibrant alliance to transform the institution.
Dr Harris, while as Vice Chancellor of the University of UWI, held many other leadership posts. He served as Chairman of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and was elected Chairman of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. (Photos by Carl Croker)