After University and Prison, What?

“Shubh Diwali, Happy Mashramani”

Not having attended Secondary School, much more the local University,  my unlettered, uncertified “inferiority complex”  intrudes whenever I make bold to comment on things related to our highest tertiary institution, the University of Guyana (UG).

However, I’m sort of an example to my working-class, non-academic countrymen that we can still make it without academia’s accolades,  (Why, I’m soon to complete twenty non-stop years, as a newspaper columnist!) Keep hope alive!  I also reserve my citizen’s right to comment, responsibly, on matters of national significance.  So here is my most simple take – and concerned anxiety – on the University we all help to upkeep.

Saturday 10th November, 2012, saw the 46th Convocation Exercise which graduated more than 1400 students.  Many are already in the workforce but many more of the 1480 will be job-hunting right now for appropriate employment – hopefully commensurate with their just-earned qualifications.  But what dear citizens, is the state of play in that regard?

UG’s History, current realities

How many qualified Geologists are there available in Guyana?  Will technologist/scientist/Best Graduating Student, Ben Hassan Sharief serve his country to the maximum? But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

In terms of UG’s establishment and development throughout its 49 years, I tire of hearing that Dr Cheddi Jagan’s “brainchild”, dubbed “Jagan’s Night School”, was established in October of 1963 amidst grave doubt, some ridicule and hostility and certainly, widespread political upheaval. All true, but unnecessarily repetitive!  Later the converts – after the PNC/UF assumption of office in 1964 – regaled us with the fact that Burnham (and “de PNC”) endorsed and fully supported the Jagan University’s early development and one-time “progress”.  Again true – but I tire of hearing it.

At UG’s very first convocation in January of 1968, Professor Alan Earp described those proud hardy graduates as “thirty-one survivors” of the pioneer  164-class of ‘63”.  I had opportunity to enjoy the personal (historical) reminiscences of two of them, Mr George Cave  and Dr Martin Boodhoo.

One lovely (?) point hit me: that then PPP Minister of Education, Senator Cedric Nunes told the British Guiana Teachers Association in 1963 that one powerful reason for Dr Jagan’s dream of a local university resided in the fact that it was relatively costly  for the country to remain a full member of the University of the West Indies compared to the small number of Guyanese graduates who actually returned  to serve B.G.!

Huh?  Do they stay on these days?  Motivated to stay on? Contracts or no contracts?

I now call on young journalists/researchers, including UG students, to research this: Using the past 15 convocations, find out which Corporations, businesses or Government Departments sponsored students for relevant, appropriate courses.  Do graduates serve the new technologies, agriculture or manufacturing? Find out how the graduates over the past 15 years, fared.  Jobs for qualifications? Qualifications for jobs?

Pity our prisoners?

After last Saturday’s University Convocation, the next Sunday evening saw this year’s Prison-in-Concert entertainment at the National Cultural Centre.

I was impressed, even moved, by the raw talent and creativity of the inmates.  Their skills in the performing arts easily reminded all that prisoners are people too.  But just as we tend to treat deportees or graduates of the New Opportunity Corps – reformed youth – the stigma prevents released prisoners from second chances in this land.  (Perhaps a listing of some prominent well-known personalities, who once served prison-time could be “inspirational” (?))

I’ll be the last to represent those vicious convicts who executed savage crimes, including habitual, incorrigible recidivists.  However, our prison system, despite enormous flaws, does attempt to be correctional.  There are academic classes, sports activities and vocational training.  But upon release, what?

As I enjoyed the Prisoners Concert, as I wondered about the UG graduates, I also question: where are the jobs in a society as blighted as ours?  Though blessed with numerous resources only a small portion seems to enjoy?

Great Diwali!  Poor Mashramani?

Look I know that there should not be any odious comparison.  One is a centuries-old religious-related Hindu celebration; the other a 42-year-old politically-rooted festival commemorating a constitutional status hoping to consolidate some national identity.

National? Who embraces Mashramani – the festival which celebrates our Republicanism?  Perhaps many know that there is actually little to celebrate. I however, use the Diwali festival as a reference to the Mashramani Planning Committee to illustrate how adherents of one socio-cultural-religious group organize, mobilize and execute celebrations that capture national attention.

Inspired by Diwali my (annual) simple request is again this: I beg the following partial listing of entities to support any aspect of Mashramani 2013 that they “approve”: BK International, security companies, bakeries, Sleep In and other hotels, airlines, insurance companies, the National Lottery Company, Pooran and Cevons, Twins Manufacturing, National Hardware, Gafoors, Best Buy, Kissoons, Toolsie Persaud Limited, Edward B Beharry and Sons, Regent Street stores, those on Sheriff, Robb, Camp and Water streets too, M&M, Muneshwers, DDL, Flambouyant, Nigels and Survival supermarkets, Guytrac, Kirpalani’s…

As I go to the telephone Directory’s yellow pages, I feel confident of their support for Mashramani 2013. And I suspect that Culture Minister, Dr Frank Anthony looks forward to that support too.

What next?

*1)  Beautiful Diwali Motorcade Mela and Show at LBI on Monday night.  The back-drop colours seemed similar to PPP/C colours as Attorney-General Anil Nandlall made his singing debut.

*2)  What’s wrong with the generation of parent-less or under-parented youth?

Illegal  “Bombs” disturbed Tuesday evening’s peaceful lighting up, and there were many arrests in Georgetown’s Alexander “Village” once again.

Just no control over annual lawlessness desecrating innocent observances?

*3)  As I enjoyed New Amsterdam’s female prisoners in concert, one non-performer was charged for having marijuana back in her NA cell. Others have managed to get pregnant there:

*4)  Like with no mastery over electricity blackouts since the seventies, no success with air-carriers either.  Recall Sky Service, GAC, GA2000, GuyAmerica, Arrowair, Leisure Air, Travelspan, Universal, REDjet, EZjet. Name four others over the luckless years.

*5)  Early in November 2011, I had hoped that I would not be subject to Comrade Dr Luncheon and Comrade Sam Archibald Hinds, so visually and vocally again. No such luck!

Cde Sam has served under four presidents since ’92.  What is it that the PPP likes so much about Sam that it keeps him going, and going and going? Discuss.

‘Til next week!


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Decades ago I actually was allowed to experience two separate Cabinet meetings for very, very brief periods, representing the then Ministry of Information.

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