Keeping the promise to provide free education

GUYANA has come a far way in the struggle and fight to educate its citizenry on par with other educational institutions across the region and further afield.
IT has attained universal nursery and primary education. The country, though small in terms of its population, is progressing rapidly towards the attainment of universal secondary education, but there are challenges that the Education Ministry has encountered which are being addressed in order to clear the way for this stellar achievement.

At the same time, the Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) back in 2020 promised to focus its attention much more on ensuring the delivery of quality education for all.
It promised to build and expand educational facilities in Guyana, expand the use of ICT in education, facilitate the establishment of an online university and promote e-learning for hinterland students, provide 20,000 online scholarships, provide free education at the University of Guyana (UG) within five years, and provide a pathway for debt write-off for students with outstanding student loans, among other things.

The aforementioned things are already being done since the PPP/C party got into government in August 2020.
To his credit, President, Dr. Irfaan Ali has reiterated that he stands firm and committed to the promise he made to the Guyanese people. He hammered home the point that the PPP Government is working on creating a 21st century education system in the country.

President Ali was quoted too as saying that the government will increase education expenditure to 20 per cent of the national budget, which he noted, will ensure adequate and sustainable financing for the education sector.

Only Friday, he said that the carbon credits money which Guyana received will go into the pockets of the people and several developmental projects aimed at the improvement of their livelihoods, especially through education.

Firstly, the government must be commended for its stellar and committed effort to education, as seen by the type of modern and realistic policies it rolls out yearly without discrimination and marginalisation of ethnic minorities.

It has geared every policy in the education sector towards the creation of fairness, balance, transparency and accountability in education.
Additionally, the policies that govern access to education are forward-thinking and futuristic in nature.

For example, the Education Cash Grant, which is $30,000, has positively impacted the lives of thousands of students and families, assisting them with preparation for school, transportation costs, and other expenditures. It will be $50,000 by 2025 and is expected to further improve school attendance and other concomitant social factors in a child’s school life.
Also, the policy on examinations has yielded results for many in Mathematics, English, Social Studies, and Sciences, thereby producing the best and most well-rounded students all the way through to the secondary levels.

The bottom line is the policy regiments are working and Guyana is developing rapidly into a nation that leads in the delivery of education.
Secondly, the promise to provide free education at the tertiary level is a major leap in the education delivery of this nation.

This is a big step forward and a laudable philosophy that is enshrined in Article 27 of the Constitution of Guyana, which reads: “Every citizen has the right to a free education from nursery to university, as well as at non-formal places where opportunities are provided for education and training.”

One has to keep focused on how the government plans to roll out its promises, particularly when it comes to making education free at the University of Guyana.
The President’s vision of making the tertiary level education at not only UG, but also throughout Guyana free, is commendable to say the least.

After all, tertiary education was already in place at UG in 1976 and lasted until 1994, when the PPP/C Government could not sustain the financial burden and there were several cost recovery and economic cuts made to get the country back on the path to economic recovery.

Now, after years of profitability and newfound oil and gas wealth, the PPP/C could afford to make its promise a reality, but it should be studied carefully before the plan is announced publicly.
Additionally, UG still has a complexity of problems which are related to its management, manpower and money, so it will take a considerable amount of time and resources to make UG great again and its tertiary education accessible to all.

By 2025, one would think that President Ali could get this task done and deliver on his commitment, as he has done in so many other areas of socioeconomic development.
Notably, do not be surprised if it is in the upcoming 2023 National Budget and a higher amount of funds go towards the education sector.

Finally, the education sector is in good hands with a wider vision and commitment to the sector shown by President Ali and Education Minister Priya Manickchand. Together they plan on taking this country into the realms of a modern, reformed and technologically advanced education nation, but all hands must be on board – the unions, teachers, education officials and students.

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