It is with much pleasure that I applaud the relaunch of the National Cadet Corps (NCC). I was a Cadet in the NCC for about 4 or 5 years while in secondary school and it was one of the best experiences I have had. I enjoyed the drills, spending periods during school vacations at Tumatumari, Konawaruk; I also visited Kimbia. These were all Guyana National Service (GNS) centres.
I recall doing survival skills training. Once we spent a night in the jungle in the Konawaruk area and I ate creek water and Cerex, and some of my colleagues managed to start a fire after digging a hole, since the jungle was wet.
I used to enjoy the ‘People’s Parade’, in which my Cadet Corps would participate. When I was about 14 or 15 years, the NCC selected me to read the National Pledge at the Flag Raising for the Republic Anniversary that year; my school, Brickdam Secondary, was so proud that they made me a prefect after that, and sent me to represent the school at, I think it was a Non-Aligned Movement Conference at the National Cultural Centre. I was happy to go and represent my school.
I remember while we were at Konawaruk, Major General (ret’d), Joe Singh was the Director General for the Guyana National Service (GNS) at that time, and he came to Konawaruk and took us in a helicopter to see the Kaieteur Falls.
I remember driving in a truck through the trails to one GNS location or another. We went to Teperu and Itabu. We walked 9 miles from Tumatumari to Konawaruk; hiked from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) location at Garden of Eden to Georgetown. I remember getting dressed in my GNS uniform for inspection parades, being taught personal development skills. At school, I behaved because I did not want Staff Sergeant Carter to hear anything else ‒ oh, she was a disciplinarian, as well as the other officers.
We learnt how to slow-march, march in formations ‒ I used to like that. I enjoyed doing the march-past at the People’s Parade (eyes right…up, two, three, four, down). Today people ask me, how is it that I am so patriotic. I tell them that I owe it to the 4 or 5 years that I spent as a Cadet in the NCC in the Guyana National Service.
A few years ago, I wrote a ‘Manual on Civic Education for Youth in Guyana – Maximising the Development Value of Youth in Guyana’ for the then Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. What I discovered during that research was that there are three periods when a civic education programme is needed in a country: after a country has had a civil war; and after it has gained independence from another country. This was when I understood how strategic the former President Forbes Burnham was in the ʼ60s, ʼ70s, etc, with our civic education programme (national policy, etc). At that time, the country and its people were required to develop their own identity. The third reason for a civic education programme ‒ and this is my addition ‒ is as a way to address the impact of globalization. Even though the boundaries of countries are disappearing with globalization, individual countries still need to maintain their individuality, in order to be a strong contributor, both in the regional and global context. If countries are weak individually, this will impact on their level of contribution regionally and internationally.
I also learnt from doing the research on civic education, that citizenship is not inherent; people are not born with knowledge of how to behave like or become a good citizen, therefore citizenship has to be taught. Hence, the revival of the National Cadet Corps is a much needed intervention to orient or reorient our citizens as it relates to their roles and responsibilities; as individual citizens, members of a family unit, members of a local community, members of an organization/institution, members of the society and as members of a democracy (country).
Aristotle said that “one is a good citizen to the extent to which one upholds and honours the constitution … Perfect virtue, however, is the only standard for being a good man”. It is my belief that the human quest should be [to be] both a good person and a good citizen”.
One last point I would like to make on behalf of some of my fellow citizens, is that some are disappointed that both this government and previous governments seem to have taken for granted those who stayed in the country and kept it together and going, in whatever form. They stayed and worked hard, but yet for too many of them, their quality of life is unsatisfactory, and they have to watch their fellow citizens who left and returned treated as kings and queens and princes and princesses.
Our governments must show these young people that if they are honest, and respect the law, their fellow citizens and country and work hard, that they too will be treated as kings and queens and princes and princesses, and that their quality of life can be improved right here in their beautiful country. Please don’t get me wrong, we are happy to have our fellow citizens back but those who stayed must also be treated with respect!
Many persons are now telling their children to go away and study and work and then come back so that they can be treated with respect. I sincerely hope that those who have ears to hear, will hear.