We must encourage and propel, in every possible way, the critical need for the education system to put literacy first.
While Government’s focus on physical buildings is important, buildings cannot rank as the ultimate priority. Our people come first.
Building and renovating a real estate inventory of spanking new buildings simply serves as a way to lavish our State funds on questionable construction “contractors”, who may or may not have strong ties to powerful figures of the Government.
While the State may boast of its real estate holdings with all these school buildings, it fails miserably when citizens fail to cultivate a culture of literacy.
Despite widespread, nation-wide, disenchantment with the failures of our education system, we continue to see poor literacy results. Despite the spectacular success of the elite students who spend the whole day in school, and every extra hour on evenings and weekends in private tutoring, we hang our heads in shame at the state of literacy in our land.
The responsibility rests with Minister of Youth and Culture, Dr Frank Anthony, and Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, to correct this fundamental wrong against our nation.
After two decades in office, and with upwards of one billion US dollars spent on the education system in that time, we cannot rationalize such failures anymore.
Both these Government Ministers come across as likable, efficient, astute and well-suited to their roles.
Yet, when we take a deeper look at the state of our young people – at the culture and education of the young – we see a sad despair emerging.
Despite the laudable Budget allocation for the Ministry of Education, year after year, we do not see
the results to justify such massive spending.
In fact, literacy takes up a minute portion of the education budget.
Sources claim that the real literacy rate for Guyana is 23 percent of the population. Even less of our people may be functionally literate. And even less qualify for tertiary level education.
So acute is the literacy crisis that we can no longer leave it to the “experts” to come up with solutions.
It seems imperative that every citizen, from every political party and every niche of the nation, including the business sector, must take on the role of educator, mentor, coach, and literacy advocate.
Government is failing at the task. Minister Manickchand and Minister Anthony both fail to make the grade.
These two, granted such a golden opportunity to make a defining difference for this nation, sadly, fall short and may end their Government service with but token contribution. They both fail to generate a national vision. They both fail to inspire citizens with the zeal of pursuing a culture of literacy.
Such concepts as innovative education and cultivating a culture of literacy seem alien to both ministers.
When we see two of our best Government leaders failing so miserably, we cannot but despair at the state of our national leadership.
So the onus falls on the shoulders of citizens to make the difference. We must care about the future of our children, of the next generation.
Our school buildings, rather than just real estate assets in Government’s accounting books, could become assets of vital human resource value.
What’s stopping the University of Guyana from deploying Adult and Continuing Education classes to every school building across this land in the evenings and weekends?
What’s stopping the technical colleges and trade schools from opening up satellite training centres at our school buildings across the land?
Our people lack such basics as essential life skills. They need professional development training. And knowledge management is foreign to our education system, with even graduates from the University of Guyana unable to manage their specialized knowledge and training.
In the 21st century, we cannot deliver education the way we used to. It’s a different world. The younger generation wants teacher-student interaction, dynamic relationship building, a social environment where mentoring, coaching and inspiration play paramount roles.
Our education system still employs that dour, stern, one-dimension method, where the teacher talks down to the silent students en masse.
We refuse to innovate, to think outside the box, to see that we live in a new world, where people learn from interaction with their peers more than they learn from a lecture.
We need to implement such anthropological concepts as the mimetic theory of the French thinker Rene Girard, for example, in how we educate the citizens of 21st century Guyana.
Such theories as cultivating an educated imagination, as Northrup Frye developed, must play vital roles in developing our next generation.
Our school system still lacks futuristic thinking. We need to see the Information Technology department at the University deployed across the land to teach youngsters programming and web development. That is the future, in this Knowledge Age.
In every village and town and nook and cranny of our country, we want to see literary book clubs and athletic centres and churches playing a role in the moral and ethical development of their community.
In Canada, a Government-funded programme sees entrepreneur centres launched across the country, called StartUp Canada, and aimed at encouraging and facilitating young Canadians to imagine and dream, to develop new ideas, to launch new innovative enterprises as micro-businesses.
These ideas belong in the Guyanese education system, using the school buildings as delivery centres, attracting citizens – children and adults – to employ their human resource assets to national development. Our human capital cannot continue to go to waste, idling and never imagining or dreaming of development.
This is why Canada would continue to ride the waves of progress and success as a 21st century society.
Where are we in Guyana?
Today, in this Knowledge Age, with research and knowledge and information and experts available at our fingertips online, across every village, we become empowered to make the difference.
Every citizen is an education expert. Every citizen cares about the development of the next generation, their children and grandchildren.
And that care, that passion, that access to knowledge and information, makes us all responsible and equipped for the task at hand.