The National Accreditation Council (NAC) which would have been expected to detect bogus training schools did not meet at all last year, according to two former members.
This matter came to the forefront with the arrest recently of a woman who operated an unlicensed nursing school and took money from a large number of persons. Questions have been raised as to why the council and the relevant ministries had not detected the illicit operations earlier.
Although at least ten members from the Education Ministry, the National Centre for Educational Research Development (NCERD), the Guyana Bar Association, the Medical Council and the Guyana Association of Professional Engi-neers (GAPE) among others, were appointed in January last year, no meetings were held.
This issue was highlighted in a recent GAPE newsletter. According to the Gapevine, “A major disappointment is the Accreditation Council of Guyana (Ministry of Education) which has never met during the year, even though a chairman was appointed in January 2008.”
It went on to state that in the meantime the engineering profession along with several universities in the region had established a Caribbean Accreditation body for engineering and technology (CACET).
“The final details were ironed out in Guyana late 2008 and submitted to Caricom for tabling at its meetings in December 2008 in Guyana. It is our understanding that CACET may come into operation in October 2009,” the newsletter added.
When contacted last week about this, Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Desrey Fox said there is an accreditation board that is responsible for the process involving opening a teaching institution. According to her, this body is different from the NAC.
However, both of the former members insisted they were one and the same; one stated that there is nothing in the law books about an Accreditation Board.
Fox told Stabroek News that the board, which was last week named by Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon, had to be contacted for further information but she did not know who the members were or where the office was.
This newspaper was told by one of the former members that the NAC’s office was located at the Ministry of Education, 68 Brickdam.
On a visit there this reporter was told that the office had been closed since around May last year and the person in charge, was now working at the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).
When Stabroek News visited the TSC, a staff member said the person in question was a part-time commissioner and would come in occasionally for meetings. He was not there when this newspaper visited.
For a second week, Education Minister Shaik Baksh could not be reached by Stabroek News for a comment on the accreditation issue although he had promised to do so and several messages were left with his secretary.
The NAC has the responsibility of ensuring quality in educational standards and if a teaching institution does not go through the accreditation process, it will be deemed unrecognised by the ministry. The certificates and qualifications gained from attending such an institution will be invalid.
One of the former members, who requested anonymity, said that as far as he knew it was the Minister of Education who appointed members of the council, every year.
He told Stabroek News that Dr James Rose was the chairman in 2007 and in January 2008, they were told that there was a conflict of interest and he could not be appointed.
Another person was then appointed chairman, but according to the former member, he never called a meeting.
The person who was in charge of the office and is now at the TSC was acting in the capacity of executive director and was responsible for all the day-to-day operations such as the framework plans which were to be later presented to the council. He worked out of an office at 68 Brickdam, the man said.
The former member questioned how uncertified schools such as the bogus nursing school could be detected if there is no accreditation council in place to look at standards and visit locations.
He said that in 2007 under Dr Rose, the council was functioning as things were being planned and executed; criteria were identified, plans were made to bring persons from overseas to conduct training sessions on accreditation standards and a few visits were made.
Though work was done he said nothing much was achieved since the council’s powers were not being enforced.
In the time that he was a member of the council, the man said, he was never paid and pointed out that this was not the only reason why he lost interest.
“I am spending two hours every month, talking and discussing issues for nothing. They were not paying attention and this was one of the problems,” he stated.
He said that they weren’t even meeting and he just lost interest.
“Things started running cold and I stopped hearing from them.” He stressed that enough attention and effort were not being placed in the council.
This former member said he had received a letter from Baksh appointing him to the council from January 3 to July 31 last year. However, during that period he never attended a meeting.
The NAC Bill was passed in Parliament in July, 2004 and the then education minister Dr Henry Jeffrey said it was an integral part of quality assurance.
The bill, according to a GINA release dated July 22, 2004, catered for the establishment of a council which shall be the principal body in Guyana for conducting and advising the accreditation and recognition of educational and training institutions, providers, programmes and awards, whether foreign or national and for the promotion of the quality and standard of education and training in Guyana.
The council will provide for the advancement of education, learning skills and knowledge; ensure that the quality of all post secondary delivered meets the standards set by the council to the qualifications and certificates conferred or awarded; ensure that the appropriate standards set by the council are being maintained and improved; protect the interests of students; and promote the free movement of skills and knowledge within the Caribbean, the release added.
The NAC was established in 2005 after a consultant from the Caricom Secretariat conducted an exercise in Suriname, Barbados and Guyana and found the climate here conducive to establishing such a council.