Eyewitness: Schooling…

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…and running-on-the-spot

It’s not just our elections’ results that were delayed. That other disaster that hit Guyana – the COVID-19 – only slightly less traumatic than the PNC rig, also pushed back all our NGSA and, of course, their results. Now, one of the signs that we’re still a Third World backwater is the national frenzy we go into over the NGSA results.

Can you imagine that, sixty-four years after independence – citizens can still go ga-ga over the 100 or so 11 to 12-year-olds who’ll enter five or six high schools in Georgetown?? It really brings home how profound was the PNC’s destruction of our educational system between 1964 and 1992. Considering we started from being on par with any other colony in the British Empire – including Singapore. Because, you see, dear reader, an educational system isn’t just about the physical state of the school buildings and the teaching staff; it’s as much about the expectations of those who enter it.

When Burnham was finished with Guyana, having completely devastated the 80% of the economy that it boasted about controlling, the thirst for learning and knowledge honed over more than a hundred years after slavery and indenture had been wiped out. Why go to school to get credentials when the only way you could get a decent job was by having a PNC party card??

After a decade, it was why go to school when there were no jobs outside of cutting cane or selling sweeties by the street corners??

Anyhow, in what’s known as a “systemic” problem, the urge to excel remains dampened and emaciated – even after the PPP heroically built back the infrastructure and trained thousands of teachers since 1992. Now, after 5 years of PNC (mis)rule, following the elections and COVID challenges, the exams were taken – over the objections of the Teachers Union – and the results are now out. And the ensuing frenzy – albeit dampened a tad this year because everyone had to be behind masks and observe social distancing – was unleashed.

The results are also slightly better than in previous years, but remains nothing to really shout about when almost half of our Grade 6 students couldn’t get 50% of the Maths questions right. In this new world that is coming with oil starting to flow, we’ll have to become numerate AND literate if all the good jobs aren’t to be snatched by foreigners.

But your Eyewitness wants to remind the Minister of Education of a promise she’d made at her first crack at her job back in the day: to stop the mad rush for the top 100 spaces.

That all high schools were to be brought up to the level of the “elite” GT schools!!

…for sugar

Your Eyewitness is happy that the administration’s plunging full steam ahead on reviving the sugar industry – as it had promised. But he’s more than a mite sceptical about the deadlines being met. And it’s not just about getting back those abandoned sugar factories and fields into shape – and that will be an Aegean task demanding several Hercules! – there’s the matter of the “grinding” factories.

They’re really not in much better condition than their abandoned brothers. And, once again, we return to the cause of it all: the PNC! From 1975 – when the industry made a humungous windfall from record high world prices – the PNC instituted a levy on sugar exports that wiped out any profits that could be shared with the workers – and just as importantly – used to rehabilitate the factories.

If the sugar revival plan is to have any chance of success, there will have to be the necessary capital injection into the factories. And the fields.

Let no one have any illusions about this.

…in Berbice

We shouldn’t be surprised about the drop in enrolments at UG Tain Campus. When you shut down two factories and fire more than 4000 workers, food on the table takes priority over school fees.

The Government should provide scholarships to those needy students.