UG inaugurates Psychology programme

The University of Guyana last evening launched its Psychology programme, which, for the first time, will allow students in the Social Sciences to pursue Certificate, Diploma, Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree courses in the discipline from next year.

The programme launch was held at the University of Guyana’s Education Lecture Theatre last night.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to see something that was dreamed become a reality and I cannot say thank you enough to people who have worked for over 20 years, because this has been a long process,” Professor Paloma Mohamed, Deputy Vice Chancellor stated.

As of January 2018, interested persons will have the opportunity to attend courses for the Certificate in General Psychology and the Diploma in General Psychology.

September 2018 will see the opening of the 4-year Bachelor’s in Psychology course, while students will be able to pursue a 2-year Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from next July.

“…This commencement demonstrates that UG is satisfying its mandate to develop the human potential to guarantee effective nation building, as we seek to deal successfully with mental health issues. In addition, UG embarking on the Psychology programme will surely be a major asset in the drive to address mental illness in Guyana,” Junior Health Minister Karen Cummings stated.

The launch of the programme was facilitated with the support of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), which provided funding, and the Caribbean Network of Psychological Associations (CANPA). Professionals from CANPA reportedly offered their services pro-bono.

“I want to particularly thank UNICEF, because while the university had the drive, the will, the love, the passion, we needed resources to do this. We needed a partner who believed in the vision and believed in the need for this. And UNICEF stepped forward and has been there for years working with us,” Mohamed said to applause.

Asked by an audience member who would be teaching the courses given the deficit of professionals locally, it was related by Professor Michael Scott, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic Engagement, that colleagues within the region are prepared to assist, as he noted that there is a reservoir of psychology professionals ready to support the university.

Addressing this point later, Mohamed stated:

“…Someone in the audience just asked a very spot-on question about who is going to teach, when really, [it is] what are we going to teach…this group of people have been locked in a room all day and will be locked in a room all day tomorrow really grilling down on what the Guyanese psychology is supposed to look like and who are the best people to teach it,” she said of the CANPA professionals.

She also related that the Ministry of Social Protection had years ago sent off 15 psychologists who have been trained at the Master’s level and can lend their talents to the institution.

Professor Omowale Omuleru Marshall, President of CANPA, and also an alumni of UG, during his address, commented on Guyana’s position in terms of the availability of qualified mental health workers, as he noted that it is only in Guyana that persons are considered to be Psychologists at the first degree level, contrary to international standards.

“We’ve come here to work with our member association in Guyana because it turns out to be the one that needs our specific attention. The Guyana Psychological Association is a member, but it’s the only country in which people are able to carry the designation “Psychologist” without a Master’s degree. In many parts of the world you have to have a doctorate and additional training to be a Psychologist,” he said. He added that in the Caribbean, the European model is followed, where they “focus on building practitioners” at the level of the Master’s degree.

“But there is nowhere where one is able to practice Psychology, or even use the professional designation of Psychologist without a Master’s degree. Except here. And the irony is that this is perhaps the country with the greatest measure of epidemiological demands for psychology,” the professor related.

He stated that the groups within CANPA have to try to develop a “Carib-bean psychology” that is able to respond to the needs of the population.

A statement from the university called the launching a “landmark event in the history of public health, care and services” in Guyana and noted that the programme has been a vision of the university for in excess of 30 years.

“…the University has envisaged such a programme for over 30 years and has been working towards having enough people trained in Guyana to meet the complete needs of the country’s mental and behavioural profile,” the statement said.

It was also noted that such a programme will help to decrease the suicide rates in Guyana and increase the psychological well-being of Guyanese, thereby, expanding their capacity to reach their full potential, among other benefits.

“…the greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim high and we reach our goal; it is that we are always aiming low and reaching it. This launch represents a part of what Michelangelo had been proposing in aiming high,” Professor Ivelaw Griffith said of the occasion.

“…In aiming high decades ago when people may have thought, “Why are you trying to get a psychology programme, why? Why?”…but I think this event is testimony to the perspicacity that is inherent in a university doing exactly what Michelangelo advocated—don’t always aim low and reach your goal. Aim high. It may take you a couple of decades—as in this case—but the journey’s end is worth it,” he said.

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