National student lobby launched

-urges focus on quality education

With students facing several challenges in learning institutions, a new organisation seeking to represent students’ interests nationally was launched at the University of Guyana Turkeyen Campus yesterday.

“The National Students’ Movement (NSM) of Guyana seeks to create and foster a healthy atmosphere for student-related/involvement in dialogue and the protection of the welfare of its beneficiaries,” a flyer for the organisation says. “The Movement intends to increase the awareness of students’ rights and promote the exercising of these rights in a democratic and organised manner.”

Students at the launching of the National Students’ Movement of Guyana yesterday.

President of the NSM Core Committee Tricia Teekah said that the executive body is temporary and they are hoping that the NSM will be fully established by next year. The organisation plans to register as a non-governmental organisation and is supported by the Commonwealth Youth Programme. As a first step, the NSM will be reaching out to students to sensitise them of their rights, Teekah said, while adding that other activities will follow. The organisation will target secondary, post-secondary and tertiary institutions.

Teekah outlined several challenges currently faced by students such as “atrocious” facilities and social pressures as well. The NSM is also looking to provide organised representation nationally and internationally as well, she added. She said that the organisation has several stakeholders and they are hoping to get the support of the ministries of Education and Culture, Youth and Sport as well as others.

According to the NSM, based on consultations held during the Regional Student Leaders’ Round Table sessions, the lack of knowledge on student rights and responsibilities, inefficient method of mobilising students, student apathy and limited participation, inadequate administrative and governmental support, non-alignment of school curricula with the demands of the working world and inefficient social and cultural extra-curricular activities are the key student youth issues.

While it recognised the government’s achievements in relation to achieving universal primary education and the quest to sustain this record along with ensuring universal secondary education, the NSM is also advocating “a dramatic shift of focus from merely securing the existence of structures, but to also guarantee the quality of this education, especially in lieu of declining Trained Teacher-Student ratios and accessing those in the remote hinterland and riverain communities.”

Addressing the launch, UG Registrar Vincent Alexander cautioned that they avoid national politics, at least, in their infancy. “National politics is so divisive,” he said. “You have to avoid them like the plague.” Alexander warned the students they risked being cast on either side of the political divide if they get involved in political issues or “crushed by both.”

He urged them to focus on common issues and seek to represent the interests of students. The University Registrar recalled that there have been many failed attempts at creating such movements here. He said that there are several critical issues that they have to overcome.

The group has to establish its legitimacy by reaching out to student communities and having them accept that here is a movement in which they are involved, he said. He stressed that acceptance is the best basis for legitimacy. Further, he said, an integral part is outreach to its constituency and also good governance. He noted that in the context of Guyana, as the group tries to acquire legitimacy, they have to be aware of the political environment.