ON Monday, founder of the Peoples’ National Congress Reform (PNC/R), the late Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, would have celebrated his 94th birthday, and President David Granger declared open the Chetwynd Learning Centre aimed at the preservation and dissemination of his ideas which form part of his legacy.Located at the former home of President Granger in Durban Backlands, the Chetwynd Learning Centre will now bring together three main agencies under the PNC/R: the Burnham Education Scholarship Trust (BEST); the Burnham Book Trust (BBT) and the Burnham Research Centre (BRC). President Granger said that the centre will also create a space for young people to access information, thereby contributing to the education of the nation’s youth.
“Anything you want to know about education had its genesis in Forbes Burnham’s first decade as the prime minister of this country. Teacher training, nursery education, university education, the Teaching Service Commission…” President Granger told the gathering at the opening. “People have come on and added to it, but the ability of that man to see an educated nation is what propelled this country out of the backwardness of the 1960s and made it one of the most educated and competitive countries in the Caribbean.”
The President said that bringing these three agencies under one roof is fulfilment of the fundamental philosophy of Forbes Burnham and it is what will move Guyana forward. The centre, he said, will allow for their services to be opened to a wider range of Guyanese citizens. BEST currently sponsors about 58 children, spending an average of about GY$ 2 million annually. The centre will now be opened to these and other students for research, homework and other school-related projects.
“This learning centre is being opened to provide a public good. As our resources permit all three agencies will be opened to a wider range of Guyanese citizens,” he said. The President also expressed his wish to see similar learning centres opened in every town of Guyana,where children can have a place of refuge to do research and to advance their education. “These agencies are supplements of the education system and the vision of these agencies have come from the mission of Forbes Burnham to provide a good life for all Guyanese,” he said.
General-Secretary of the PNCR, Oscar Clarke, highlighted that education was a key focus of Forbes Burnham and quoted from the late leader’s March 1961 speech ‘A Destiny to Mould,’ where he said: “For us, education is the cornerstone of equality and one of the chief instruments for the abolition of snobbery, the removal of discrimination, the development of creative beings and the production of a nation of men and women who will never surrender to mediocrity or dictatorship of any kind.”
Clarke lauded President Granger, whose initiative it was to open the centre, for carrying on the legacy of Forbes Burnham and for continuing the push for education like the former leader. “Like our founder- leader, our present leader is keenly aware that education is the cornerstone of equality; the key to eradicating poverty, ignorance and bigotry,” he said. He said that the idea to preserve and disseminate the ideas of the PNCR’s founder-leader has been a main aim of the party for years. This aim has seen the establishment of the Burnham Foundation in 2005, as well as the subsequent establishment of the other initiatives such as the Sophia Literacy Project, along with the observation of other memorial events. He said that the idea for the establishment of the Learning Centre was part of President Granger’s goal of preserving Forbes Burnham’s legacy as well. The event saw attendance of several government officials and other dignitaries. Also present were Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, former Mayor Hamilton Green, students of BEST as well as executive members of the PNCR.