It was George Washington Carver who said that “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom”. As youths we are constantly encouraged to pursue an education because of the security it offers. Having recently completed my degree in Agriculture Science at the University of Guyana, I feel as if the door to my future is being forcibly shut in my face, ironically for reasons I was taught it would open ‒ my youth and my education. For two years, I worked at the President’s College as its Farm Manager, initially on a one-year contract from September 2014 to October 2015. I remained employed for six months after that without a contract. Then in May 2017 I was given a termination letter with no reasons provided for my termination. What is discomfitting is not so much the termination, but the manner in which it was done and how it emerged. While the letter provided no reasons for my dismissal, the word on the ground is that it was due to allegations of incompetence. Firstly, none of the allegations made are driven by sound facts or have been thoroughly investigated, although I have insisted in the interest of fairness and my own integrity, that such an investigation be done. Secondly, prior to receiving a notice of the termination of my contract, the board, without the support of administrators of the school, conducted an interview for my replacement without having advertised a vacancy for the position. Thirdly, at the end of my one-year contract I received a positive appraisal of my performance from the school.
I worked with very few resources and was able to make substantial progress with the school’s farm. The school moved from $104,000 to over $4 million in its account; it had 14 swine when I started but it now has over 30; it had over 700 broilers, and when I left it had over 4,000; it had less than 100 layers, but when I left it had over 2,000. The college is now self-sufficient in eggs, chicken and pork. The only area I was not able to see much progress in was the supply of vegetables due to the barrage of stray animals from the community that enter the school compound each day and either eat or trample on the plants. I made several recommendations to the previous and current board to have this addressed; however nothing was done. Further, the farm is plagued by poor infrastructure. Through my efforts and with the assistance of the management of President’s College and the Ministry of Agriculture, we were able to secure a grant from the Caricom Development Fund to the tune of US$700,000 to expand the vegetable garden, create an orchard segment, a dairy complex and a road, as well as purchase equipment. Therefore, it was only a matter of time, before I would have been able to realize growth in vegetable production as well and help the school to become self-sufficient in this area.
However, I was prematurely dismissed and worse yet, as a young man who is committed to honesty and hard work, without being given a fair hearing of my concerns and ample reasons for my dismissal. Given the efforts I have put in and the progress I have made, I believe that that is the least I deserve. I once attended a board meeting with the intention of voicing my concerns. However, to my shock and dismay I was chased out of the meeting like schoolboy being rebuked by a teacher rather than being treated in a professional manner.
My dismissal was driven by an unprofessional board member and I am among several other cases of abuse of power by the board because we are seemingly ‘small people’. Further, the school’s administrators seem to have little voice these days as the board seems to be hijacking the school for political motives. It appears to me that those who have been charged with management of the institution by being placed as board members, want to assume more power than was given to them and to usurp even the responsibilities of the school’s principal and the personnel officer. Therefore their strategy is to clear out that those who they cannot count as allies.
I speak for all ‘small men’ in reminding the Guyanese people that, as Martin Luther King Jr once remarked, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” so I will continue to cry out until I receive full satisfaction for the injustice that was meted out to me.