Leader of the Opposition and A Partnership for National Unity, David Granger says the lack of funding to the University of Guyana (UG) has stifled its ambitions of producing individuals with the requisite skillset to bolster national sectors that depend heavily on engineering and science.
“More has to be done to develop STEM (Science, Technology and Mathematics) at UG,” Granger said last Friday, while calling for improvements to be made to the university’s libraries, laboratories and lecture theatres.
He made the calls at a press conference, where he was asked his position on the raising of tuition fees.
Most programmes offered at UG, particularly those in the Social Science Faculty, carry a tuition fee of $127,000 per year and it has been argued that this figure is inadequate to facilitate the offering of a quality tertiary education.
Patsy Francis and Melissa Ifill, President and Vice President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), respectively, have argued that salaries offered by the university are less than adequate and suggested that an increase in tuition fees could go towards increasing salaries. Increased salaries, according to Ifill and Francis, would effectively attract more qualified lecturers, as well as motivate those who would otherwise leave to stay.
UG Vice-Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi has also spoken about the need for increased fees, but said that this move needs to be accompanied by other initiatives, such as the creation of partnerships with the private sector.
Granger, however, shied away from supporting or opposing a hike in tuition fees, although he did note that Article 27 of Guyana’s constitution demands that “Every citizen has the right to free education from nursery to university as well as at non-formal places where opportunities are provided for education and training.”
He said UG needs to be able to provide internationally-acceptable programmes at prices all students can afford.
He urged “a discussion” between all stakeholders, including and especially the government, to make a decision on a hike in tuition fees, while also insisting that the government is obligated to provide the requisite subvention to make up for what tuition fees are unable to cover.
This role, he said, should be taken seriously since education is “the single most important service you can provide to a child.”
Recalling the rationale behind the setting up of UG, as opposed to becoming one of the party countries to the University of West Indies (UWI), Granger said the then-government determined that the needs of Guyana, including the construction of seawalls, were different from the needs of the other countries contributing to UWI. UG was therefore created, at least partially, with the intention of producing graduates who were capable of taking up jobs in areas critical to the country’s development.