Violating the Environment

Sir-Lessons, Miss-Lessons

Crimes against cleanliness. Crimes against the environment. Beginning in 2004, those were captions I used to show off my grasp of the challenges and possibilities with respect to the daily, necessary and vital issue of solid waste management. What a quaint, modern-day description for the storage and disposal of all sorts of garbage.

Garbage, waste, trash is like the poor: it is destined to be always with us in some form, throughout our lives. Why? Because as we live the life we ourselves or other forces fashion for us, some waste will be generated.

So why have I returned to this issue? Does it have to do with one of our now frequent scandal- controversies- the aborted Recycling Plant MOU? Or the disgrace of the garbage city of Georgetown? Not actually. But in an oblique manner, somewhat related.

You see, I’m recycling these views perhaps in keeping with the concepts and precepts of solid waste management: Reduce, recycle, reuse.

 Been there…But once again…

Frankly Speaking, after (The Great Flood of 2005,) I have frequently boasted, on a very personal level, that I Fenty know of most aspects of the management of waste in any society. As if I studied and practised it, as a professional. I didn’t, but it was my way of paying tribute to the people who fashioned a public education and awareness pilot project in Lodge and Regent Street. That one-year comprehensive programme was so wide in scope and reach that it affected and pleased many. And embarrassed others.

So all those involved in that 2004 teaching and- doing exercise – have been there, done that before. But behavioural change especially amongst the poor and vulnerable, takes years sometimes. In our God-forsaken Guyana, where politics takes centre-stage before professionalism, multiplied are the challenges and obstacles workers face when attempting to change bad habits into desirable behaviours and necessary cultural outcomes.

Today begins yet another effort to sensitise various categories of the population as to what is required to win any war on solid waste here.

Once again the Inter-American Development Bank- the IDB- as it did in 2004- is assisting the Government to employ professionals to confront our solid waste woes- throughout the country. The media, big business and the NDCs will participate in crisp, down–to–earth workshops. There are to be many other practical activities. Very new initiatives and implementing legislation are to be announced. Past failures will be analysed.

But will success attend these new efforts?

A little spark of hope has been again lit -amongst my skepticism and disgust at you- know- what. So I’ll just wish this renewed initiative well by showing off, in two paragraphs, some of what transpired 9/10 years ago.

“Done that…”

The Public Education Project then, before the January 2005 Great Flood interrupted us, did some of the following: Defined solid/liquid waste, taught about the methods of disposal, established hotlines to alert the city council, provided bins and books on SWM to schools in the project areas, discussed the legislation on SWM with magistrates and prosecutors, collaborated with PAHO on filaria in Lodge, tried to remove derelict vehicles, gave cameras to city constables to record littering and dumping, suggested SWM studies for school curriculum, lectured taxi and minibus divers (Groups) and provided them with waste receptacles.

Don’t you think that the preceding was all! But you surely understand the scope of that effort. All media and other communication techniques were utilized. Media workers were awarded for social efforts. Outside of our mandate we even sensitized about what Haags Bosch should be and journeyed to little St Vincent to examine a proper sanitary scientific landfill. I’ll end there. Hoping that there is will and teamwork this time.

Some Great Force has spared us the ravages of solid-waste-related disease. Up to now.

 “Sir” and “Miss” at “Lessons”

My comments, last Friday on the phenomenon of after- schools lessons, as a real and present “industry”, triggered quite a few responses. Both positive and testy.

Last week I shared my minor surprise when a very concerned taxi- driver father proclaimed then explained to me that the hours his daughter spent in secondary school daily, could not adequately prepare her for her CXC and other exams.

I used to be a teacher. I know of both slow learners and under-prepared teachers. I suspect that there are never the best, adequate teachers for specific specialist subjects in all our schools. I hear of disruptive, distracted students, expensive text-books and unattractive educational infrastructure. Still, what struck me is the declaration – and acceptance – that formal school-teaching now seems inadequate!

I did not need them in the fifties; my daughters did not rely on lessons in the late seventies/eighties. But then no one wanted 20 subjects! Are 17 grade ones necessary today? I‘m a dinosaur in these matters now-a-days but I hear of the covert exploitation by certain teachers during school hours. You just have to attend lessons under the houses of miss and sir in the evenings if you wish to succeed at the exams.

Poor parents, like governmental ministers and top CEO’s, want the best for their children, so…

Just remember, even if you have to ignore it, education in Guyana is ‘free.’


.1) In a letter published in Stabroek News when Minister Frank Anthony’s daughter Jessica topped the country at the SSEE (Common Entrance) some years ago, a one-time PPP comrade of his congratulated her warmly. But the then/now disgruntled fellow advised her to thank her well-off dad “for all the extra lessons and books” that he could have afforded her.

.2) In our type of society you still get the level of education, medical care – and justice – you could afford.

.3)  Whatever became of Dr Cecil Rajana?

.4) Who owns that Caricom Annexe building these days?

.5)  Teachers do not press poor people’s children to purchases lots for schools Christmas parties!

.6)  And don’t tell flooded-out residents and small businesses about pumps, kokers, tides and tropical convergences!

’Til next week!


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