President David Granger said that the University of Guyana (UG) is central to fulfilling the scientific and technology objectives of the ‘green’ state that the Government envisions. He was at the time delivering the keynote address at the opening of the inaugural Diaspora Engagement Conference which was held yesterday at the Ramada Princess Hotel, Providence, East Bank Demerara.
“Guyana’s green development strategy aims at advancing climate adaptation so as to protect its fragile coastline and reduce environmental hazard which can be destructive to our people’s livelihoods…This University must drive the intellectual processes of ‘green’ development by becoming the incubator of technology and nurturer of skills and talents. The University must establish institutions to educate students to advance ‘green’ development, institutions such as the Biodiversity Centre,” President Granger said.
The Head of State explained that in order for ‘green’ development to become a reality, Guyana needs biologists, botanists and zoologists to document and study its unique and unmatched rich biodiversity; engineers to erect infrastructure in its hinterland and to install hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass energy generation plants; geologists and gemmologists to provide services for the sustainable management of the extractive sectors; agriculturists to promote food security and information and technology specialists to extend Information Communication Technology (ICT) services.
“The University of Guyana, if it is to survive and thrive, must fulfil these needs by becoming a university ‘for’ Guyana. The national university must be responsive to national needs. How could it be otherwise?” President Granger questioned.
He also spoke of the many challenges that the institution encountered, especially during the early decades of its existence, when it drifted from the objectives and dissemination of knowledge for national development by enrolling a disproportionately high number of students in the arts and social sciences compared to the natural sciences. The situation changed around 1969 when Mr. Dennis Irvine, a scientist, was appointed Vice-Chancellor.
“The University, during the Irvine era, employed lecturers from academia around the world, enjoyed respect for its intellectual rigor and expanded the breadth of its programmes to include agriculture, education, earth and environmental sciences, fisheries, the natural sciences, social sciences and technology… The University’s second ‘science and technology’ shift is set to start. This country is on a developmental pathway to become a ‘green’ state,” the President said.
President Granger informed the large gathering, which included about 243 members of the Guyanese diaspora, that the ‘green’ development agenda will promote increased investment in biodiversity management, coastal zone management, solid waste management, ecological and environmental services, eco-education and eco-tourism, Information and Communications Technology, extended protected areas and generation of renewable energy and urged them to get on board.
Meanwhile, UG’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Ivelaw Griffith said that the conference, which was organised by the University, is aimed at cementing homeland and diaspora-based relations. It also seeks to discuss global best practices in diaspora engagements; strengthen partnerships with diaspora organisations; engage the diaspora in facilitating the pursuit of entrepreneurship, innovation and social and human capital opportunities and to enable diaspora and homeland citizens to give back to Guyana.
Additionally, during the course of this one-week event, a Caribbean-Diaspora Engagement Centre will be launched to institutionalise engagement in research, outreach and talent management. There are also a number of unstated objectives of the conference, all of which underscore the indispensability of the diaspora to the rebuilding of UG.
Professor Griffith informed that this forum has attracted Guyanese and non-Guyanese participants from places like the British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Grenada, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos Islands, Barbados, Nigeria, Ghana, St. Lucia, and Mexico.
The conference is being held under the theme, “Dreaming Diaspora Engagement, Doing Diaspora Engagement’. (MoTP)