Letter: The list of achievements under Minister Manickchand’s leadership is too long

Minister of Education Priya Manickchand

Dear Editor,

I have noticed discussions in the press on education, in particular the exchange between veteran trade unionist Mr Lincoln Lewis and Minister of Education Ms. Priya Manickchand. The exchange sometimes got heated and went into unnecessary personal criticism.

One sentence caught my attention, and I think it needs to be put in proper context. At the beginning, Mr. Lewis said, “While Minister of Education Priya Manickchand is no Winifred Gaskin or Cecilene Baird in intellect and performance…”

Mr. Lewis is very wrong. Minister Manickchand is intellectually at least equal to those two previous Ministers of Education, if not superior. However, talking about performance, it is clearly no contest; Minister Manickchand is head and shoulders above both of the abovementioned women.

If we leave out emotions and look at the facts, we cannot escape the reality that the achievements of Education under Minister Manickchand dwarf those of Ms. Gaskin and Ms Baird.

When Minister Gaskin took over from Cedric Vernon Nunes, Guyana was leading the Caribbean in Education achievement. The country (then a colony) was on the verge of having universal secondary education. Recall that the country had converted primary schools into all-age schools, so children were moving seamlessly from primary to secondary education. After Fourth Standard, children moved to Form One.

It was under Ms. Gaskin that that process was stopped, and a reversal stepped in. Thousands of working people’s children were denied secondary education. By 1974, the situation had become so horrible that Ms. Baird is on record as saying that children were leaving schools and could not read or write properly.

Contrast those records with Minister Manickchand’s. More children are in school than at any other time. We are again at the threshold of universal secondary education. Ms. Manickchand has worked very hard to bring us to this stage. Moreover, the quantity and quality of education is far superior today than at any time. Look at the distribution of the passes. It is no longer confined to a few schools in Georgetown, but children in all parts of Guyana have been outstanding.

The Government is expending considerable sums of money to ensure that interior students can catch up with those on the coast. Progress here is also significant. The list of achievements under Minister Manickchand’s leadership is too long for this short letter.
For Mr. Lewis to try to diminish her outstanding services and achievements can only be explained by his prejudice and anti-PPP/Civic position.

Donald Ramotar,
Former President