Given the serious challenges facing this nation in this second decade of the 21st century, we must focus on one major goal to transform how the next generation lives.
Let’s choose one thing we could do well, focus on it, and make the defining difference – one that works, that propels the children among us to the heights of their potential.
One person could make this happen. Education Minister Priya Manickchand is in the position to make a huge difference for this nation. The Minister holds the key to transforming how our nation looks a decade from now.
With vision, strong action, determined focus, and the practical wisdom to define the future, Ms Manickchand’s role in cultivating and shaping our future is second to none in this land.
Under her guidance lies the future of our children, from kindergarten to university. At the University of Guyana, her leadership could transform our national capital asset of skills.
At the teachers’ training college, the nursing school, vocational institutes such as Critchlow Labour College and the Technical Institute, Manickchand’s leadership is absolute, and crucial.
The responsibility that rests in the Minister’s hands really confers on her the role of mother of the nation’s future. It’s an astonishing opportunity for this young leader to shape the future, and secure her legacy as a great leader of the 21st century Guyanese nation.
This morning our children wake up in the hinterland, in Linden, in Berbice, in Essequibo, in Georgetown, and look up to us adults to make this society a place where they could dream, strive and embody a realistic opportunity to self-develop.
Our nation has a lot to be thankful for, despite the dire state of the society. Many of our children, cultivated under the guiding hand of their ambitious parents, achieve much.
When we look across our nation, including the global diaspora, we see so many outstanding Guyanese. And many of us overcame enormous odds. In the 1980’s, huge challenges faced citizens: we could not source books, had to line up for scarce basic food, faced gross inefficiency in public transport, lived with a crisis in national housing.
Yet, the generation of the 1980’s achieved a solid education, with many of our citizens completing high school, successful at GCE or CXC, or both. We faced stunning odds, but we got one thing – a solid education.
If we owe late President Forbes Burnham a big thank you for anything, it’s that his government cultivated universal education, from nursery to university.
In fact, Ms Manickchand would do well to restore a tiered system of free University education for each citizen who qualifies through the secondary school system. As a nation we suffered economic constraints of unimaginable proportions compared to the rest of the Caribbean. But, we got an education, at one point achieving a 98 percent literacy rate.
Today, our national capital asset of skills lies at the bottom of the Caribbean pool. Our national functional literacy rate dropped to the alarming crisis of a shocking 23 percent, according to an official source.
When we see an 89-year old citizen in Berbice being able to read the daily newspapers, while a teenager at a Community High school is unable to write a sentence or read a paragraph, we know that we face a monumental crisis. We have failed generation after generation of our children over the past two decades. That’s a long time to fail. It’s time to turn things around.
And Minister Manickchand must take her responsibility as a mandate of utmost importance.
In this generation, we will see more lawyers, doctors, leaders and professionals emerge. Our nation does work. But, for too many of our children, the future looks bleak and forlorn.
The established national education system offers great opportunities for transforming our communities across this land.
Each school building offers a place that could function as a transformational community hub. Apart from a training centre for our children during the day, the Minister could open up these buildings, all across this land, in every village and town, including Moruca, Lethem and Rupununi, for the University of Guyana to hold adult night classes.
The Minister could easily equip these satellite classrooms with digital lectures through wifi, maybe in community development partnership with Digicel or GT&T, for example.
This simple strategy would open up the landscape of knowledge and training for personal development to citizens all across this land. Instead of adults idling away their time, they could embark on the joy of learning, of becoming knowledge workers.
Plugging the citizenry into a knowledge culture instils in our people the confidence, initiative and personal leadership for local community projects that foster local development. Such a strategy also quickly builds a national capital asset of skilled, thinking people.
Our school buildings, flung across this vast land, from Orealla to the Pomeroon to Lethem, offer a fantastic opportunity to empower each citizen with a national knowledge culture.
Through the national education system we could embark on all kinds of personal training and citizen development. We could hold fitness classes in the evening, literature forums and book clubs, classes for the development of moral and ethical social behaviour, personal development in essential life skills, and even personal finance training for household budgeting, and entrepreneurship.
In partnership with organizations like IPED, we could even embark on a national programme, through an entrepreneurship adult evening class in these school buildings, of fostering small business development across the country.
Manickchand’s role calls for vision, strategic planning, wisdom in networking even opposing forces to support her national development vision, and authentic leadership.
We know we harbour among us mediocre minds which stifle progress and initiative. Many bureaucrats and selfish officials pull this society down. It’s why we have failed our people so much.
The Minister must overcome this evil, not allowing petty minds to stand in her way. Serious challenges face such visionary tasks, preventing forward movement of vision and purpose.
But, Minister Manickchand’s single-minded focus on this one goal, of transforming the future of our children over the next decade, is the solution we need. It would inspire our nation to achieve the tipping point for our latent potential for progress to sprout and grow.