A batch of 50 students who benefited from scholarships to study at the secondary, technical and tertiary levels under the Hinterland Scholarship Programme graduated on Wednesday at a ceremony held at the Amerindian Village, Sophia Exhibition Complex.
According to the Government Information Agency (GINA), 40 of the 50 students wrote the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination last year and achieved passes at an average of seven or eight subjects per student and an overall pass rate of 86 %. This is an eight per cent increase over the previous years.
In his address at the graduation ceremony, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds extended felicitations to the students
on their accomplishments and implored them to continue their education. He then pointed out that government is committed to improving access to quality education for youth across the country and it had recently awarded a contract for the construction of a new secondary school in Kato, Region Eight. The new school will accommodate 350 students.
“An important aspect of improving opportunities for children in the hinterland is to have the best students attending some of the top secondary schools in Guyana,” he said. Hinds, who was performing the duties of president, said the site selected for the new school is beautiful and he expressed hope that one day there would be a University of the Pakaraimas.
In her address to the graduates, Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai said, “Today marks the attainment in one phase in your life as a student.” More than 51 years ago, six Amerindian students were first awarded scholarships to attend schools in Georgetown under the Hinterland Scholarship Programme and to date 368 hinterland students have benefited, GINA said. The minister noted that these figures indicate that government has continued to invest in education and young people are capitalising on these opportunities.
“Today, Guyana can boast of achieving the MDG for universal primary education…government continues to invest and support equal access to pupils and students nationally to acquire an education,” she said. Sukhai pointed out that the school uniform and school feeding programmes, the subsidy for examinations which is available to vulnerable families, expanding education infrastructure and continuous training for educators have all had a tremendous impact on the delivery of education nationwide.
She also revealed that government’s new goal is to achieve universal secondary education. “I can assure you that the government has the political will. What will be the challenge is having adequate resources and the support of many stakeholders and students to whom secondary education is offered,” she said.
Sukhai also said that students who return to their respective communities must be given the opportunity to put their learning into practice. “For example, many of the high achievers from various batches before you have done exceedingly well and when they do not receive the requisite support to further their academics and goals and return to the villages… many of them will move to seek employment in the mining and forestry areas,” she said. While these are growing sectors, it is also important for graduates to engage in more formal, institutional aspects of the sector, she said.
According to GINA, the graduates were given certificates as well awards for consistent academic performance and maximum performance. They include Pearly Melville, who completed studies at the Carnegie School of Economics. She received an award for maximum performance. Kester Hernandez of Region One; Mary Parker and Maxine Welch, of Region Nine; Dacia Chapppelle and Lisa Thakurdin, of Region Two, and Laura Vandenburg of Region Six, received awards for consistent academic performance.
The scholarship programme provides regional scholarships to hinterland students who have gained from 470 to 479 marks at the National Grade Six Assessment. Those with 480 and more marks are granted national scholarships to attend secondary schools in Georgetown. Last year, 62 students graduated from the programme.