What’s our priority?

We wake up every morning to build, to make something useful and beneficial of this gift of life, in a sunny, fertile land.

If we rise each day with a strong, courageous purpose in our heart, each day taking hold of a renewed hope and resolve, to build a life of worth, this nation would fulfil our dreams.

We must determine in our heart that we are winners, that we will not stoop to defeat.

What’s our priority? What’s the premiere priority for our nation, as a 21st century global partner in this Knowledge Age?

We must put our children first. We must determine that building tomorrow is of utmost priority.

We must plant ourselves firmly on the ground, and with our eyes to the future, lay our hands on the fragile shoulders of our young, and guide them into a future of peace and prosperity.

Once poor nations – Brazil, South Korea, Singapore, India, China, our Caribbean cousins who have leaped ahead of us – invested in their children and young people. In India, we saw decades of investment in education now paying off. In Jamaica and Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas, we saw the fruits at the London Olympics.

As a nation coming into its own maturity, we absolutely must pinpoint one priority and make this the focal point of our national developmental vision. We must write a future for our Guyanese nation that inspires our children to construct a tomorrow of peace and progress. We must create the dream on which they fix their eyes as we shape them in the education system, the social space, the cultural landscape.

The guiding visionary for this priority is, of course, our young, energetic, well-liked, hard working Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand.

Her role is akin to that of mother of the nation’s kids. In her hands she holds the power to mold the future generations.

In Cabinet, Minister Manickchand must exert wisdom and courage to always bring Government back to the focal point of our nation – shaping the next generation of leaders, builders and visionaries.

This week, Minister of Youth and Culture, Dr Frank Anthony celebrates the visit home of our outstanding son of the soil, E. R. Braithwaite. Braithwaite wrote the timeless literary classic, ‘To Sir With Love’, which became an all-time movie classic. The book continues to inspire millions around the world with its beauty.

In him, we have the ideal symbol, the concrete metaphor, of who we are as Guyanese.

It would be a wonderful gift to our children were we to contract Mr Braithwaite to visit our schools and  talk to our children, to let them touch and feel the scent of success of a visionary Guyanese.

Ms Manickchand, in meeting Braithwaite, must let his spirit of being a great teacher, a writer of exceptional genius, a thinker of enduring beauty, touch her heart and renew her resolve to transform our nation.

Whatever critics may say of Forbes Burnham, he paved the way for our nation to rise to a national literacy rate of 98 percent, with free education from nursery to university. Today, a generation that grew up in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, living in countries worldwide, achieve their dreams because they got that foundation back home. They got a solid education.

Sad and depressing it is that Government has cancelled free university education. At this point of our history, we would do well to employ Burnham’s vision of free education for each and every citizen, to the first degree level.

We would also do well to expand the One Laptop Per Family promise of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, to ensure that each child has access to a computer on the Internet.

Since the late 1980’s we chose to make Economics our main priority. Maybe we had to. The nation was in dire straits when late President Desmond Hoyte assumed the Presidency.

This government, over the past two decades, chose to stabilize the macro-economic ship. It has done a reasonably decent job, although much more could have been done. For us to still rank at the bottom of the poverty ladder in the Western Hemisphere, still close to Haiti and Nicaragua in GDP, is shameful and inexcusable.

We focused on economics and the results, after 20 years, cannot justify such a policy.

We must change direction, and transform how we create our future.

Today, our functional literacy rate lies around 23 percent, according to an official source.

Our performance at the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), though peppered with outstanding results from an elite top core, is atrocious, especially in English and Math. We cannot boast of progress when so many fail.

We must think seriously about what constitutes our national priority. We must choose a new path. We must invest in our tomorrow.

Even the Jagdeo laptop initiative failed to inspire the nation with resounding applause. Not only is the programme dogged with corruption allegations and mismanagement, but it seems to have died.

Instead of impacting the nation with a surge of digital excitement, it got clogged and may now be a dismal failure.

The laptop programme may have fallen by the wayside because we place emphasis on economics. The priority in the programme may have become, not the reach and transforming of our children, but instead how do we do this as cheap as possible.

Our priority has got to be the training of our children. We must, at all cost, give them the tools they need to develop themselves into a thinking generation, a creative and energetic and visionary society of  Guyanese, ready and able and trained to tackle the demands of the Knowledge Age.

Our priority must be our children. Our priority must be to build for tomorrow. Our priority must be embodied in our education system, in the value-added training of our greatest national asset, our crucial human resource capital, our most valuable national intellectual asset, our children.

We must prepare them to achieve their dreams, to transform our nation through their educated imagination.

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