FOUR young Guyanese students- Sherlock Langevine, Moriah Hamilton, Omaiah Hall, and Farnaz Baksk recently took to social media, appealing for assistance in funding their tertiary education pursuits. These appeals from them reminded me that much emphasis needs to be placed on providing educational opportunities to Guyanese youth.
Sherlock was among one of the top-performing candidates at last year’s Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) but, before intervention, he did not receive a full scholarship. Moriah topped the Region in Environmental Studies, but has only received a partial scholarship from the American university she was accepted into. Farnaz has represented Guyana at an international level with STEM Guyana. Omaiah has already made quite a name for herself in the local arts sector.
These young, brilliant Guyanese students are all interested in furthering their studies and, as they have all indicated, returning home to develop Guyana in their various fields. But, they all need (or needed, in the case of Sherlock) help with funding their academic pursuits.
That having been said, their appeals alone underscore the need for there to be a greater local investment in providing educational opportunities for Guyanese and specifically, Guyanese youth. It is for this reason I was very happy with the announcements of the opportunities that are now being offered through the newly established Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL).
In a budget speech Minister of Education Priya Manickchand said, “The GOAL fills a crucial gap which previously existed in students across the length and breadth of our beautiful nation having access to tertiary education.
“As alluded to by His Excellency, the GOAL will also liaison with other ministries and regional bodies as necessary to develop student centres across all administrative regions, so that students without internet access will be able to engage in online learning.”
This is exciting, knowing that many more students or potential students would have increased access to opportunities to achieve their academic pursuits. And it is much needed, since scholarships to study abroad, for example, are limited.
Admittedly, I do not have empirical data to confidently state that the local demand for scholarships outstrips the supply, though I strongly believe it does. In the absence of that empirical data, what I can offer is my experience.
Five years ago, I wrote 16 subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination level. Usually, sharing that with people, whether new friends or co-workers, results in them questioning why. And, my answer has always been that I did it because I wanted to secure a scholarship to further my tertiary education, knowing that I could not afford that without external assistance.
Back then, I was not alone in my pursuits. Many of my schoolmates were competing for the scholarships from the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), which were awarded to the best-performing students across the Region. We also competed for scholarships from the Government of Guyana, because then, those were the only two scholarship avenues we were aware of. And then, as it is now, those scholarships were limited.
Unfortunately, I was not among the top-performing students that year and as such, I was not awarded a scholarship. Of all the students in my year, I am only aware of two students who became eligible for these scholarships. Still, like many of my colleagues, I decided on pursuing students at the sixth form level where I wrote the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), hoping that I could get a scholarship there. I did not get that scholarship either, but I was able to work and fund my studies.
For many students like myself who are desirous of studying abroad or studying subject areas that are not offered locally, scholarships are seen as the mechanism that will help in those pursuits. But, there are not unlimited scholarships.
Seeing these young students take to social media and appeal for assistance is a stark reminder of the need to expand educational opportunities in Guyana and I do hope that applicants make full use of GOAL.
Beyond that, I hope that many of the companies establishing a presence in Guyana would consider offering scholarships or at least, bursaries to help develop the human capital as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). Private support for the advancement of education in Guyana is paramount, especially if they are serious about contributing to the country and facilitating the transfer of skills.
A combination of personal (the GoFundMe and Facebook appeals), public (GOAL) and private (CSR) efforts will allow us to advance access to educational opportunities, thereby contributing to the development of Guyana’s human capital.
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