President Donald Ramotar yesterday called for an end of the politicisation of the affairs of the University of Guyana (UG).
“We might have different ideas, but for Christ’s sake don’t let the different ideas paralyze us. Let’s try them, one at a time. Life will tell us who is right and who is wrong and we must be bold enough to make changes when we have made mistakes. Too much of politics was reflected at the university that held it back, and it is still happening,” Ramotar said on the occasion of the UG’s 50th anniversary, while also observing that although the institution has come a far way, it has not achieved all that was envisaged at its inception.
“While we have come a far way, we have not achieved all that was envisaged. We are going in that direction, but certain customs and habits must change. More emphasis should be placed on developing academic work, and university professors must give their marks to students earlier…We must be bold enough to make changes when we make mistakes,” the president charged at a panel discussion to commemorate the university’s 50th anniversary at the George Walcott Lecture Theatre. A conversation was held between some of the first students and persons involved in the planning and building of the campus during the early days of the university.
The president stated that the university was the only such institution to have been established by a colonial people and that it was indeed a fantastic achievement by any standard, even though there was a political and ideological struggle. “At the time when the university was born, Guyana was going through a very difficult time. There was a struggle for the university to be established. The late president Cheddi Jagan wanted to build an institution that will not only produce specialists, but to have people who would see the development of the country as much more important than even their own development. That was why I think he thought that the University of the West Indies could have served that purpose… Eric Williams tried to dissuade him from establishing UG and to go with UWI instead, but he had the fundamental view that those who were funding UWI were the ones calling the shots,” he said.
Ramotar also stated that Guyana is not far away from having universal secondary education. “While universal primary education has been achieved, we will soon have universal secondary education. Tertiary education also has to expand its role on nation building. We need to create virtual classrooms so that people in the remotest parts of the country can have access to education online…we need to take a hard look at the needs we have for national development,” the president stated.
Meanwhile, the panelists spoke about the historic early years of the university, which is currently celebrating its anniversary under the theme ‘Honouring the past, molding the present, transforming the future.’
“I attended UG as a student graduating in Physics in the year 1975 and I was president of the UG student society and I was on the council for a number of years,” panelist Navin Chandarpal told the gathering.
Sister Mary Noel Menezes said that she has been connected to the university since its conception and that it was a very happy time.
The other panelists spoke of when the university started in 1963 with just three faculties—Social Sciences, Natural Sciences and Arts—while some recalled the days when the fee at the university was only $100.
In her remarks to the gathering, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand read the speech made by the late president Cheddi Jagan at the institution’s inauguration in 1963.
Vice-Chancellor of the University Jacob Opadeyi said that it was an important occasion and Guyana should be proud as very few universities can say that they have produced a president.