The University of Guyana needs fundamental restructuring and reorganization

Dear Editor,

I wish to remind Dr Prem Misir (and the few “misguided others”), of a basic tenet of natural law: ‘Justice delayed, is justice denied.’   There is no denying that the University of Guyana, Turkeyen, (and I emphasize Turkeyen, as opposed to the University of Guyana, Tain, Berbice), is in dire need of the approved World Bank loan, if only to provide a modicum of integrity as an institution of higher learning. In the present contextual realities of the institution, the delay in signing the relevant documents is tantamount to a refusal.  I am informed that the institution has lost its accreditation. But, who cares?  Kwakwani, Linden, Critchlow Labour College, President’s College, and now, the University of Guyana, Turkeyen.   What do they all have in common?   Is this all part of a grand design?  This has happened during Dr Misir’s watch.  What a blow to our national pride.  Rational Guyanese ought not to accept this state of affairs.

The “imminent significant developments” mentioned in Dr Misir’s missive (‘Government has not refused to sign the World Bank loan for UG’ SN, February 12), is just another attempt to obfuscate the real issues. The relevant documents will not be signed until such time as more plastic or pliant officers are installed as Vice-Chancellor and Registrar at the university.    Anyone who has followed the manner in which some loans have been put to use, may be disappointed, but not surprised to learn that who controls the money, rather than the purposes for which it is intended,  is,  most probably, responsible for the delay.

An analysis of the ‘explanation’ for the delay raises many concerns. For example, “imminent significant developments aimed at comprehensively transforming the university” – highfalutin language, but transforming the university into ‘what,’ is the question? Are possible answers intimated within the listed “components”, such as 1) “to make the institution more efficient” in achieving the same irrelevant outcomes? or 2) “to enhance cost effectiveness”/cost recovery, Dr Misir’s euphemism for an ‘increase in tuition fees,’ or the ‘privatization’ of the institution, as he has often touted?

I am certain that the Pro-Chancellor knows only too well that with such a “change,” access to university education in Guyana will be determined by ability to pay (wealth), rather than on the basis of intellectual ability. This could be interpreted as social engineering and would be inimical to the national interest.  The University of Guyana by its very nature, philosophy, mission and location, cannot serve a limited public; it has national, regional and international vocations.   Whatever Dr Misir may be attempting to institutionalize, will most definitely fail. And, in the end “all will be consumed.”

Further, “Component 1” of his missive states: “to produce a renaissance in the science curriculum, oriented toward the significant needs of the LCDS” (the newest kid on the development block).  What about the “significant needs” of a comprehensive energy policy, of which the LCDS is a part?  If, however, he is genuine in his desire to have the university meet the significant needs of the LCDS, then the Government of Guyana through the University of Guyana Council, ought to pursue a strategy of optimum flexibility rather than a strategy of rigidity, if the institution is to succeed in developing and nurturing the capacity for innovation.    Of even greater import, however, is his apparent lack of realization of an essential prerequisite.   In order to adequately (efficiently and effectively), address these needs is Dr Misir not aware that such a function is dependent upon the fundamental organizational structure of the institution?    .

When American trained Dr Cheddi Jagan, quite rightly, decided that Guyana should have its own university, I am convinced that he sensed that the English oriented, and modelled, University College of the West Indies, was not particularly suited to Guyana’s development needs.    However, he entrusted the conceptualization of the University of Guyana to persons who were British trained, and at that particular period (early1960s), not many scholars were familiar with the relatively new phenomenon of the role of the university in developing countries.  As a result, the University of Guyana stands as a good example of a weak version of a Western liberal university, a modified English model with academic departments based on single disciplines – this in spite of the fact that Guyana’s development problems require a multidisciplinary approach for solutions.

An institution modelled after the American land grant, or state university, or even some East Asian, or Latin American institutions might have been more appropriate in meeting Guyana’s development needs.

Consequently, the “imminent significant developments” of which Dr Misir boasts, in reality are superficial.
More far-reaching, or fundamental restructuring and reorganization of the University of Guyana are demanded. In the given context, therefore, access to the US$10 million World Bank loan without further delay, is critical if the University of Guyana is to meet that most essential requirement.

For the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Guyana in the twenty-first century, a better understanding of the role of a university in a developing country is not an option – it is incumbent. In reviewing his performance since he assumed office, and using the identical performance criteria used in the evaluation of academic staff by the University Council of which he is the Chairman, he should do the honourable thing.   As we say in cricket, walk, just walk!

Yours faithfully
Clarence O Perry

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