Stalwarts who contributed between 20 to 35 years of selfless service to Guyana’s highest tertiary institution were on Thursday recognised, along with the fact that they have endured several constraints and still are.
The University of Guyana (UG) 2014 Long Service Awards Ceremony, which celebrated the service of 27 staff members from the various faculties, was held in the Education Lecture Theatre (ELT).
Of the 27 persons, 11 had at least 20 years of service, 9 had 25 years, 4 had been at UG for 30 years while 3 others had served for 35 years.
Delivering the feature address, Emeritus Professor of UG Dr Winston McGowan commended the awardees for staying with the institution for so many years in face of adversity. The historian recounted the most turbulent years the university experienced—between the period of 1973 and 1979—and referred to the controversy in the employment of Dr Walter Rodney and the challenges of national service, but placed those years in the university’s peak period.
A gradual decline with periodic stagnation has plagued the institution since the 1970s, McGowan told the gathering.
The constraints of an inadequate working environment, limited finance, poor remuneration and pension are legitimate factors, which McGowan said were of great concern. “I don’t know of any university which has done as well as the University of Guyana while being greatly underfunded,” he said.
He recalled that during his tenure there, only once was a farewell was held for a staff member who was not a vice chancellor. He called for better pay for UG’s staff and improvements in the benefits of those who have retired after their years of service.
McGowan urged the gathering not to focus on the negatives and forget the positives since there is a tendency to do that. He challenged the current staff to aim for the highest and strive for PhDs and not to settle for where they are. “The greatest room, is the room for improvement,” McGowan said, while congratulating those who were nominated for the awards.
McGowan also noted the potential the institution poses and encouraged the staff to continue to work on achieving excellence which can be a model for the nation.
Barbara Holder, a lecturer from the faculty of Social Sciences, on behalf of the awardees, expressed gratitude. She counted the many years of total service dedicated to the university collectively, asking rhetorically what kept those staff members at the institution so long. Whatever the answer, whether care for national development, love for the students or pride at being employed with the highest tertiary institution, being in the classroom is a humbling reality, she said.
The journey with the university, Holder said, is one that is filled with mixed emotions. So while she expressed gratitude for the recognition, she noted the inadequate work environment.
Holder reiterated her dedication to the university: “If I am born again, I will return as a lecturer at the University of Guyana. We have stood the test of time, stayed the course, and kept the flag of the University of Guyana flying high,” she said.
She also echoed McGowan’s call for better pay for staff of the institution.