Below is a commentary by Dr Leslie Ramsammy on the purported 35 percent increase in fees by the University of Guyana (UG):
I have had an abiding interest in the University of Guyana and, in spite of many negative things said about the University, I have always believed and continue to believe that UG has played a tremendous role in providing essential human resources for the development of Guyana.
I was shocked to see a report in the media that the University of Guyana is considering an increase in fees of about 35%. As a citizen of Guyana, I can say unequivocally that the Vice-Chancellor of UG and the Council cannot count on me for support for any increase of fess for students at UG. I am certain that many people in Guyana feel the same way. I am certain that students and their families also reject such a proposal.
I do not doubt that the UG can benefit from an input of more resources. I believe considering the waste we have in Government today that the Government of Guyana can fully provide an increase in financial support to UG. The waiver of $5B of taxes from DDL could have supported an increase of $1B annually to UG for five years. This is just one example of how APNU+AFC can support UG with additional resources without the University burdening the students and their families further. Families are over-burdened with increases in more than 200 different taxes, including VAT on education, water and electricity. Increasing student fees at UG will be another assault on the education sector.
I was intrigued by the news that UG is requesting a 35% increase in student fees at a time when the Vice-Chancellor was visiting the General Secretary of the PPP and the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Bharat Jagdeo. I met the GS of the PPP yesterday and asked him point-blank if the VC requested his support for an increase in student fees.
Dr. Jagdeo was very clear in his response – he and the PPP will oppose any increase in student fees at UG. Dr. Jagdeo confirmed that he was explicit in his discussion with the VC that neither he nor the PPP would support any such increase in fees at UG.
At a time when the economy is clearly on a downward trajectory and at a time when families have been forced to cut down on expenditures because their buying power has been under assault by a government that is looking for every way to increase the tax burden on people, it is unconscionable for either the UG management or APNU+AFC to consider any increase in student fees.
Education is a public good and a necessary part of developing the human capital that is necessary for development. The recent introduction of VAT on educational services and commodities is a counter-productive and retrogressive step by APNU+AFC. I would encourage the VC and Council to not pursue any increases of student fees at UG. This will add to the retrogressive policy on education by the APNU+AFC government.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy