–Minister Manickchand says AFC’s calls for free tertiary education ‘opportunistic, hypocritical’
GUYANA’S education sector has transcended the stifling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic within the past 18 months, as a result of an injection of $65 billion by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) into innovative, sustainable and revolutionary initiatives.
The government’s interventions were highlighted by Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, in her scathing criticisms of the Alliance For Change (AFC), which sought to overlook the investments made by the government within a matter of months.
“I have noted the AFC’s call for the PPP/C government to provide free tertiary education particularly for students at the University of Guyana. The call is opportunistic and hypocritical. The PPP/C said in 2019 all over its campaign that there would be free university education at the University of Guyana within five years and a pathway found for those students who had already incurred debts thereat,” Minister Manickchand said in a post on her official Facebook page.
The minister contended that the PPP/C was able to accomplish more in 18 months than the former coalition government, which the AFC was a part of, was able to achieve in five years.
“During the AFC’s tenure in government, they did nothing to advance even slightly any of the calls they now hypocritically make. All cash grants were taken away from students and they said loudly and proudly that it was a waste of money that could not be sustained. Basic food items, healthcare and education, water and electricity were taxed,” Minister Manickchand posited.
She added: “The procurement of textbooks for children was all but stopped, schools that were designed and funded by the PPP/C were not completed, the University was left in shambles, and nothing was done to improve same, a correction of the sewage system that has haunted the University for years was budgeted for, appropriated and awarded and took more than a year – only after the PPP/C entered office – to begin. All civil works projects (the bursary, the pump house, the medical school) were stalled and had gone way past their projected contractual completion date.”
Even further, Minister Manickchand said the former government did nothing to promote or foster distance education, advance virtual education for children and mass train teachers in the usage or technology to deliver education.
“I ask you to recall the blatant lies told by its senior member Cathy Hughes, both from the floor of the House as well as on television, that she had installed across the country several smart classrooms in schools where teachers, students and parents of the said schools openly and to various media houses said this was untrue.
“Nothing was done to introduce and train more and /or mass numbers of young Guyanese at Universities nor in technical vocational education. When the PPP/C assumed office the Cyril Potter College of Education was closed with no prospect of soon re-opening (this would mean not a single teacher would have been able to graduate this year),” Minister Manickchand lamented.
In further criticising the AFC, the minister said: “This political party came onto the scene with such promise, holding themselves out to be better than any who existed and as people with all the answers. Imagine the disappointment when we were all to learn visibly and forcefully that it was all a sham. Pseudo intellectualism and pseudo sophistication. All exhibited only for the attainment of power. I remain curious as to why the AFC wanted that power. It was never to serve the people of this country and certainly not to serve the children of this nation or students in the education sector.”
This, she said, was evident throughout the AFC’s term in office with what they did and what they “failed to do” for the nation’s children.
“Things that could easily have been done. Without the need for “oil money” which the PPP/C government did in the last 18 months,” Minister Manickchand said.
Among the things the government did in those few months were the restoration and increase of the “Because We Care” cash grant and the expansion of the Guyana Learning Channel to Berbice, Bartica, Lower East Bank, Lower East Coast, West Bank Demerara and Georgetown on Atlantic Cable and E-Networks. The Guyana Learning Channel has also expanded its reach to over 100 Amerindian communities in 2021.
Other important developments within the sector included the purchase rights to two new Primary level textbooks, Social Studies Made Easy and Science Made Easy; the launch of CAPE at the Anna Regina Secondary School and the West Demerara Secondary School; text books, workbooks, past papers and material were provided to each Grade Six student in 2020 and 2021 and the free professional development arrangements with the Commonwealth of Learning and Coursera, where over 55,000 citizens, including over 8000 teachers, benefitted from a myriad of certifiable courses of study from internationally recognised institutions, among others.