Facing questions about the timing of the first University of Guyana Student Society (UGSS) pageant, the head of the pageant committee has defended the decision to go forward, saying the event was a platform to highlight problems affecting the university.
On Saturday evening, 11 students took to the stage of the National Cultural Centre to vie for the titles of Mr. and Miss UGSS 2015. The competition provided the opportunity for the youngsters to earn a year’s tuition money. First prize in each category was $200,000 towards tuition, while the second and third prizes were $100,000 and $50,000, respectively towards tuition.
The scholarship programme was officially launched last month and the ten competitors were introduced to the general public. However, since the programme’s launch there had been a backlash against the pageant, with many persons deeming it unnecessary. These negative views intensified when, more than two weeks ago, wage negotiations between the administration and the staff unions collapsed.
Since then, tensions have been high at the university with continuous strike action by the staff, numerous failed meetings, and a shutdown of the campus last Tuesday.
Some persons have questioned why much-needed funds are being injected into the pageant, while others believe that the UGSS’s sole concern should be the reinstatement of classes. Other students had also opined that the pageant should have been postponed until the conflict at UG had settled.
“Right now I couldn’t care less about this pageant,” one final year student, who asked to remain anonymous, told Stabroek News. He continued, “I want classes more than pageant; some people actually want to graduate this year!”
However, while some have lashed out at the pageant, others have come to its defence, saying that the UGSS had already invested too much into the pageant to back out. Other supporters believe that the pageant was a much-needed boost for morale.
“UG holds a steady dance, so I don’t see what’s the problem with them holding a pageant now,” UG student Keeona McKay said. She added that she is a supporter of the pageant and she noted that the contestants and the UGSS committee would have already spent a considerable amount of money and time. She added that this would have happened long before there was a “#UGRevolution” movement.
She further said sponsors would have invested money into the pageant and postponing or cancelling the event would ruin many future investments.
McKay also believed that the pageant could present a good platform for the ongoing revolution.
“So, you don’t have to like that there is still a pageant going on but the point is that it is,” she said. “You can either go and support or go to Gravity or 704 or wherever you go when you’re not at #UGRevolution… at the end of the say, it’s business as usual, especially in this aspect,” she added.
When contacted, Shebiki Beaton, head of the pageant’s committee, told this newspaper that the UGSS was very aware of the mixed responses to the pageant. Beaton further said the UGSS had been considering the postponement of the pageant but decided against that decision.
“We did consider what the implications were with the strike action but we decided to go ahead because we said it wouldn’t be fair to the delegates who put in so much work,” Beaton said. She continued, “You know you can’t please everyone but for everyone who has supported us, we’re very thankful for that. We’re doing it for those who are in support and we’re hoping to bring the non-supporters over to our side to see what we’re trying to do here is important for the university.”
She explained that the pageant had been in the works for months, after the idea was initially approved late last year.
Beaton said the main goal of the pageant had been to assist students in acquiring tuition money. Each participant, she said, selected and presented on a platform that was affecting the university.
“Everyone knows that the university is being affected so the pageant was a way of letting the public know what is bothering us,” Beaton said. “There was also a feature on disability awareness and that way we got to highlight an issue that’s affecting Guyana on a whole.”
Beaton also said the pageant improved the students’ public speaking, participation within the university and allowed a medium for them to meaningfully converse with their peers.
“So, this pageant really was important,” Beaton said. She added that she was surprised at the amazing talents that were showcased by the delegates.
The pageant was held under the theme “King of Erudition, Queen of Elegance – True Beauty is intelligence.”