…New chancellor urges creation of ‘new geography of learning’
-as close to 2,000 students graduate
…two named valedictorians
-graduates urged to protect integrity of qualifications
By Navendra Seoraj
THE world is changing with every day that goes by and this change encapsulates everything from the social services and health services, to the delivery of local education, which must be improved if there is to be a new “geography” of learning, especially at the University of Guyana (UG).
This was the assertion of newly installed Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Dr Edward Greene, as he addressed the 53rd convocation ceremony of the university at the Turkeyen campus on Saturday morning.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo attended the convocation.
Additionally, Dr Greene said that he is ready to work with stakeholders within and outside of the university to build what he called, “the accountability to the future.”
“The accountability to the future means understanding what the core
values of the university are and promoting them; enhancing creativity through a new geography of learning; and building a viable and relevant university that makes a difference to our community, nation, Region and the world,” said the new chancellor.
Among some of the core values of the university are to increase access to education based on talent, not circumstance; to establish diversity by catering to students from upper and lower- income families, high-achieving high school graduates, traditional age students, returning students and students who are differently abled; and to also reject attempts to silence open debates.
Other core values include facilitating the search for meaning as a never-ending quest for always interpreting and redefining the status quo; rewarding those who are looking for betterment and those for whom an answer yields the next question; and most importantly, condemning and penalising practices that combine teaching too little, costing too much and neglecting students.
Professor Greene said the university must give due consideration to the new geography of learning that breaks down silos by designing course offerings that increase and build on the principles of free enquiry and lifelong learning.
As the university continues its search for the right approach, he said: “There are useful models of higher education around the globe, some are like our experience, while others are not…a common tendency is for narrowing the distance between fields of disciplines; forging interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches; grasping the intertwining of the arts and sciences and striving to produce knowledge itself, since it is the most important connector of us here and the world at large.”
Elaborating on connectivity, Professor Greene said another dimension to the new geography of learning is to collaborate. The chancellor believes that the university and students must examine how relationships can be used to make a difference.
The university has already taken steps to improve the delivery of education and make a difference, and among those steps is the introduction of the PhD in Biodiversity. Greene said programmes such as those “fit the bill” of being transformational, and preparing graduates for a future that must confront the challenges of Global Warming and Climate Change.
“A university is a place of philosophers, artists, analysts, scientists and activists… it provides an enabling environment for posing questions of ethics, discovering the truth and confronting the human and social significance of our changing relationships with the changing world,” said Professor Greene.
He believes that UG is on a trajectory to development and one indicator of this is the increasing enrolment, which moved from 154 students in 1963, to 1, 100 in 1981 and to over 8,000 in 2018.
The first graduating class in 1967 consisted of 32 and included 28 males and four females, while this year, the graduating class of 1,918 persons included 610 males and 1,008 females. Despite the results, there was a balance between the slots for best graduating students, as the positions were shared by a medical student, Karishma Narain, and a biology student, Shane Rampertab. Narain and Rampertab attained GPAs of 4.0 and were recipients of the President’s medal.
“The results show that females are outperforming males, but it reminds us that males and females in this 2019 class have been blessed with far greater opportunities to higher education than that of the previous generations,” said Professor Greene.
PROTECT INTEGRITY OF QUALIFICATIONS
In that regard, he said it is imperative that graduates see themselves as the product and a part of the investment in higher education and to protect the integrity of their qualifications. “A qualification is only a blunt instrument unless you go forth and build something with it,” said the chancellor; he added that persons must use their qualifications to break down barriers of divisiveness inherited from generations, that have left scars of racial conflict. Graduates must also aspire to dismantle the coarseness that has crept into social discourse and to heal the rupture that has become ingrained into the political culture.
Valedictorian Rampertab in his address also stressed the importance of graduates making a difference in society; he noted that Guyana is on the cusp of the most influential development in the country’s history with the advent of oil and gas. “As graduates of the university, we are charged with the responsibility to ensure that corruption is averted…we cannot fall into the trap of corruption, nepotism and favouritism, we must say that it stops with us…it is easy to say corruption is rampant, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” said Rampertab.
In an influential speech which was punctuated by loud cheers, he said it is time for the graduates to be the change they want to see.
“If you want something, to get something done you have to do it yourself…it is applicable as we move to the next step… we cannot sit idly by and complain, we must be the pioneers of change and you must hold yourselves accountable,” said Rampertab.