We know one thing for sure, in this year of 2014: we Guyanese live in a society trapped in developmental deformity. How else could we explain the fact that most traffic lights on city streets malfunction?
We may ignore non-working traffic lights as the least of our concerns, because we see our dear Amerindians caught in a political war, protesting against grotesque budget cuts to the Amerindian Development Fund.
We stumble from one crisis to another, seeing the mirage of our latest mountain of negativity, ignoring the root of our ailment, the source of our sickness.
We don’t care for the finer details of what ails us, like, for example, the imagery association of the words Parliament, Budget cuts, Amerindian, Development, Funds and how this would destroy the image and feeling of what it means to be Guyanese, in the minds and hearts of our Amerindian citizens.
Such sophisticated insight escapes us as a people. Stunted in our human capital, we stumble along in a daze.
Guyanese today should be working together to build a nation that Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan invented, dreamed of and visualized.
Burnham’s dream to Feed, Clothe and House this nation is today a resounding reality. Under the government of the political party that Cheddi Jagan built, we today achieved outstanding success in realizing Burnham’s dream.
Walk through any of the major markets, and the price for vegetable and fruits is so cheap and affordable. Pumpkin, bora, callaloo, keraila, ochra sell for cheap. A household could easily feed itself in today’s Guyana.
Long gone are those days of food shortages. Long gone also is the critical housing shortage that faced us in the 1990’s. We’ve achieved incredible success in housing, and no longer suffer a housing shortage of any sort. Long gone, also, are the days when our people walked around in ragged clothes. Now, across the country, Guyanese wear stylish, fashionable clothes.
The Guyanese nation has achieved Burnham’s dream to house, clothe and feed the nation. And the political party that achieved that is Jagan’s party.
This is an incredible fact.
We must come to the point in our history where we parade Burnham and Jagan hand in hand, as co-founders and co-creators of our nation.
These two men achieved astounding success, in today’s Guyana. Both of them suffered when their time in office got cut short in tragedy. Yet they left us such a firm footing, forged and molded in hard times. Compare, for example, other long-standing public office holders such as Prime Minister Sam Hinds and Mayor Hamilton Green, both of whom failed to develop a Guyanese dream or vision, or impact this nation in any significant way. Burnham and Jagan shaped us with defining leadership.
Jagan’s vision for educating the Guyanese nation is what escapes us today. With his invention of the University of Guyana, and his belief in free, universal education from nursery to university, he laid the foundation for us to become the success story of South America and the Caribbean.
The Guyanese nation faces one singular problem today: a literate Guyanese nation. And a solution to this would unravel all other developmental challenges. That problem Jagan saw in the 1940’s when he came back to British Guiana from studying in the US.
Burnham tried to tackle that problem with a national education system, but failed under economic catastrophe.
Jagan made the Education Budget the largest chunk of the national budget when he became President, and this remains, with $32.5 billion for 2014.
Yet, we fail.
The common denominator of all our socio-economic, political and cultural challenges as a society, the reason for our developmental deformity, is staring us in the face, but we remain blind to the crisis: we lack the knowledge, skills and expertise to build this nation into a functional Knowledge Society of the 21st century.
Our fundamental problem is one of literacy, particularly comprehension and composition of the English Language: our national ability for insightful intellectual thought.
How could we thus fail, so miserably, with a literary giant like Ian McDonald among us?
We lack the insight, vision, dream, knowledge of what ails us, and thus we shout at each other in frustration at our developmental deformity.
We must work with Education Minister Priya Manickchand and Youth and Culture Minister Frank Anthony, and everyone across this nation, to emphasize the seriousness of the crisis, and to underline the difference a National Literacy Strategy would make for this nation.
We must engage the Opposition, civic groups, the corporate sector, and community organizations, to see that a National Literacy Strategy is the fundamental solution to the myriad of problems we encounter.
Across the spectrum of this society – road traffic, national media, Parliament, Government, social organizations, schools, everywhere – we see the impact of poor literacy.
Government and Parliament both fail to see how critical the problem of our fall into illiteracy really is, and so our leaders miss what’s wrong with us as a people.
Yet, Burnham and Jagan showed us, over many decades.
Now, today, trying to get the message across to our leaders, in Government and across the society, is a herculean task. We see dimly the crisis we face, and so we fail to understand how simple and easy the solution is for our rapid development.
We talk about the role of literacy in the rise of Asia’s Tiger nations, and we see the Knowledge Age take hold in developed nations, where our citizens migrate to in droves. And yet we remain blind and unseeing, and close our hearts to what’s ailing us.
It is sad and heart-breaking to see across this nation a complete lack of original intellectual effort, deep insight, in tackling the challenges that keep us in developmental deformity.
The citizen stands in a perplexed daze staring at our leaders inside the polished Parliament, who lead with blind lack of understanding, not knowing why today the Guyanese nation screams at itself in developmental deformity.