There was enormous political resistance to the birth of the University of Guyana

Dear Editor,

I refer to Mr F Hamley Case’s letter in SN of December 21, 2009 (‘Fred Case played a pivotal role in the establishment of UG’), which was a response to what I wrote ‘Political resistance to the birth of UG’ (KN, July 23, 2009).

I want to assure Mr Case that I have no intention of attempting to sully the good name of a great educator of this country, Mr FWE Case. And I acknowledge his contribution to the embryonic development of the educational system of this country.

However, Dr Harold Drayton, first Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice Principal of the University of Guyana, in chronicling the resistance to the birth of UG, noted the Ministry of Education’s resistance to the idea of a university, as follows:

“Meanwhile my work on planning the University was not without its distractions. Local, and regional newspapers, and even quite reputable U.S. journals, carried regular items critical of ‘Jagan’s night school’; and scurrilous allegations that the projected national University would simply be a training school for communist functionaries.

“Much more difficult to cope with were quite a few documents critical of the idea of a University of Guyana, written by some senior Education Officers, but without attribution, and produced with the Permanent Secretary’s blessing, on the Ministry’s mimeograph machine. Especially noteworthy was: Views on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the University of Guyana, which questioned the ‘capacity’ of British Guiana to ‘absorb’ 150 general degree graduates every year; and predicted that it would be impossible to ensure the maintenance of high standards for the degrees of the proposed College/University. The Author/s proposed that two year diploma courses be organized within Government ministries to prepare civil servants with the specific knowledge and skills that would be needed for development, based on a preliminary analysis of a National Development Plan.

“To my astonishment, that paper was distributed concurrently with the Ministry’s White Paper on Higher Education, to members of the Senate and Legislative Assembly. This caused no end of confusion, and also elicited the unforgettable quip by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Burnham:

‘If the same person produced both documents, I suggest that the service of our psychiatrist at Canje be retained immediately.’” (Drayton, Harold, The University of Guyana: Genesis and Early Years, 1963-72. In The University of Guyana Perspective of the Early History, ed The University of Guyana Guild of Graduates Ontario, 2002. Toronto, Ontario : University of Toronto Press Inc, p 32-34).

Undoubtedly, there was enormous political resistance to the birth of the University of Guyana.

Yours faithfully,
Prem Misir

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