UG needs an independent Board of Governors

Dear Editor,

One would thinks that in this age of enlightenment, the major political leaders (eg, PNC and PPP) of Guyana like the populace would embrace higher education and the benefits which accrue from such endeavours. The sad reality is, however, that the political leaders of Guyana have no overall vision of where they are taking this country and its people, consequently they have no idea where they are going and have no idea what they are doing or should be doing. No destination and paths have been articulated by the ruling elite or the opposition members. Professional help and advice are only taken from party hacks or affiliates. Despite our vaunted academic and professional successes overseas we are clueless in Guyana.

One of the questions that I asked on my return (2001) to Guyana was: What are the goals of this government for national development and what are the strategies to achieve these goals, etc? I was told that the master plan and goals for science, research and development, etc, are in President Jagdeo’s head. I was informed that people do not ask questions here, and one of the problems with ‘you foreigners’ is that you ask too many unwelcome questions. I guess the invitation by Dr C B Jagan for qualified Guyanese to return was for subservient persons only.

The PPP employed Dr James Rose as its man on the job to deal with the possible and potential threats that a vibrant university community may present.  It was obvious that this person was no serious visionary which is what the country needed then and now. The UG’s deans, faculty and PNC politicians rallied around this man and they all stood by and watched the poor treatment of Guyanese students irrespective of their cultural identities.

One of UG’s students first pointed out to me that we have PNC parliamentarians on campus but they cared not for the students but about the little perks and privileges they get from being regarded as an academic in Guyana. After Dr Rose left UG, the Jagdeo people brought in Dr. Lawrence Carrington to be the new VC.

This was someone who had likewise no national vision of the university and country. We have been writing about this university since after 2002. Some of our letters about UG were in the Caribbean and community newspapers of the USA. UG was extensively discussed in the pages of SN and KN, printed and later electronic editions. Surely Dr Carrington must have checked these to know what he was getting into. Either he put his blinkers on or he was naïve, or just did not care to know. None of these possibilities attest to the professional abilities of this VC. There were also the public fiascoes involving short-lived Chancellors Prof Calestous Juma and his successor, Dr Bertie Ramcharran. These UN-associated persons ran from the sites of gross violations of human rights of our young people and staff.

Did Dr Carrington seriously think he could change things in Guyana without government’s support? It took years for this person to realize that the VC position was just an ‘honorary’ position – a completely ceremonial position with minimal powers to do anything meaningful. Those who are now praising Dr Carrington to the skies are likewise duped.  When will we ever learn?

Anyone with a sense of decency knows that UG is a place of the violation of the human rights of young people to an affordable and decent education. This is a place of wilful neglect. The ugly facts are that we have brought this upon ourselves because we see ourselves as ‘Afro- X,’ or ‘Indo- X’ instead of Guyanese first and foremost. Our politicians are a reflection of us.

We proudly tell the world about our great inheritance and then have to admit that our narrow-mindedness brings despair and accounts for our demise as a people. We have continued the Mutually Assured Destruction policies abandoned by the superpowers.

It is time we break the chains that enslave us. We cannot allow these violations of human rights of our young people to continue. We need an independent Board of Governors at UG with people of vision and imagination to take this university, people and country forward.

Yours faithfully,
Seelochan Beharry

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