Education Minister Priya Manickchand recently met with members of ‘Operation Rescue UG’ to discuss the issues that are affecting the development of the Univer-sity of Guyana (UG) and it was revealed that a key World Bank loan for US$10 million is expected to be signed in May.
President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association, Dr. Patsy Francis on Monday told Stabroek News that the meeting had been very productive and that an agreement was reached to hold monthly consultations between the unions and the Ministry.
Among the issues discussed was that of the World Bank loan, which is expected to be signed by Minister of Finance Ashni Singh and the World Bank Representative in the Cayman Islands. The loan is intended to overhaul the university’s science and technology faculties.
Francis pointed out that the unions are encouraged by the timeline given and have asked that one representative be allowed to sit on the Steering Committee to manage this process.
As it relates to governance, the unions suggested the need for independent and competent individuals to sit on the University’s Council. Francis said they were advised that Cabinet has decided to extend the life of all state boards, including that of UG, for two months to facilitate consultation with the opposition, resulting in the tenure of the current Council being extended
The Ministry, she said, has indicated that they will participate in the process and extended full support to the team conducting the governance review and that the government is committed to implementing their recommendations.
Francis stated that they are requesting that departments/ schools/faculties/divisions prepare proposals and submit them to the team from Trevor Hamilton and Associates, which will be in Guyana for its inception mission between Monday May 7 and Friday May 11. Malcolm Williams and Khemraj Naraine are serving as the unions’ representatives on the Caribbean Development Bank Oversight Committee.
Also, a request was made to have one member of the union participate in the search committee for a new Vice Chancellor. The Minister had no objection to this request.
According to Francis, Manickchand expressed her willingness to work with the unions, students and the Administration to craft specific proposals and plans to secure increased funding from varying sources.
While ‘Operation Rescue UG’ is not satisfied with the $900 million that has been allocated to UG, for both its Turkeyen and Tain campuses, Francis assured that they are prepared to work with the Minister, who they have asked to be an advocate for an increased subvention to the university.
“Increased funding to the university is critical to the institution’s ability to deliver quality programmes aimed at stimulating national development,” Francis noted.
Increased funding is also needed for research at UG and the unions were said to have indicated competencies in several areas where local developmental issues can be addressed by university staff. The need for funding from the government, along with the local private sector was outlined, Francis said.
She stated that the termination of lecturers’ contracts was not discussed with Minister Manickchand but reiterated to this newspaper her dissatisfaction with the progress on that issue to date. Francis said that a meeting with staff is to be conducted within the next two weeks to determine how they proceed on this issue in order to have it resolved in a just manner.
UG lecturers and members of the student body protested earlier this year against the dismissal of lecturers, specifically Freddie Kissoon, and the deplorable conditions at the campus. The University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS), the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the UGSSA had joined with students in a collaborative effort to fight for these causes under the title ‘Operation Rescue UG.’