(5th November, 2015) H. E. Brigadier David A. Granger: Chairpersons, Principal, Mrs. Carolyn Canterbury; Deputy Principal, Regional Chairman, officials from the Mahaica-Demerara District Regional Office, members of the President’s College Board of Governors, members of the President’s College Alumni Association and Parent Teachers Association, special invitees, teachers, parents and most of all, graduands of the Class of 2015. I am very happy to be here, I am very honoured to be here again; the second time in two months and I will keep on coming until this place is thoroughly cleaned up.
I really feel very happy to be here this afternoon, to be among you and to share this moment with you. Those of you who are graduating will remember today for a very long time, remember your friends, you will remember the experiences you had on this campus and I hope, like Mr Angoy said, you’ll keep on supporting this excellent school.
Education and independence
Human history, the history of mankind is a ceaseless contest between chaos and progress. Guyana’s history, similarly, has been a contest between education and stagnation, between dependence and independence.
The older folk among us would remember that, on Independence Day in May 1966 many of our most important institutions and industries including the Bank of Guyana, the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Police Force, the University of Guyana, the banks, the bauxite and sugar industries – all of these pillars of society – were still in the hands of expatriates. It was not felt at that time, at the dawn of Independence that Guyanese were educated enough or fit enough to manage them.
Eventually, educated Guyanese did take over the commanding positions in the new State and over the last 49 years we can look back to see what is the impact of Guyanese management of these institutions and industries. But today we must ask ourselves a question: when we, the older generation leave the scene, who is going to carry on the management of this great country?
Independence is not simply a single historical event that occurred some time in the distant past. Independence was seen as more than just the passing of an Act of Parliament. It is a living experience that has to be continuously regenerated.
Education, similarly, is more than passing examinations. Education does not constitute a few semesters of schooling which will end today for some of you. It is a lifelong process which must be continuously augmented.
Today, I speak to you about independence and education, but neither one is a free gift. Both independence and education must be sedulously sought, must be grasped, must be jealously guarded.
When we speak of Independence we also speak about what is happening in Guyana today. There are countries on our borders to the East and to the West, which are claiming our territory and to protect our Independence we have to be constantly on guard. Suriname once sent warships into our waters. Venezuela once sent warships into our waters. Guyana has never sent warships into anybody’s waters. Guyana has never claimed the territory of any other country. But if you want to preserve your independence you have to be eternally vigilant. Similarly, if you want to protect your careers, your reputation, your future, you have to be continuously educated and re-educated.
We cannot take progress for granted. Progress is not inevitable. Those of you who are old enough to remember what happened in this part of the country, not so long ago when our country started to slide off the rails; when we seemed to be slipping backwards into catastrophe. Misguided men in high places chose a perverse path that led to decadence and that could have carried this country to the brink of degradation. This must not be allowed to happen again. People must feel safe in their own country. Education and Independence are our best guarantee against such regression.
• Education is essential to our survival. Many young adults and children, some people may feel, are becoming an endangered species in Guyana. Sometimes you pick up the paper and see a young couple committing suicide or a young couple dead in a car crash as a result of speeding.
Children sometimes grow up in difficult families, difficult households. Some of them may be battered by physical abuse, some of them may be trained in transgressive habits, but nevertheless these are the children who have to inherit this nation. They are bound to inherit this nation, old folk can’t live forever.
Education of the young is essential, yet every year, thousands of boys and girls like you drop out of primary and secondary schools. Some of the persons, who continue to remain in school however, don’t even bother to go to the tertiary education stage, the next stage after secondary, university. If we don’t take care of our schools and our children this country may one day be drowned in a terrible flood of ignorance.
• Independence too is essential to human progress. Independence is what makes us equal, what imparts equality to Guyana among the community of nations. We’re no longer British Guiana, subordinate to Britain, we are an independent State. That is the gift of independence.
Independence is the basis of self-esteem and respect, respect which each one of us must hold for other people’s beliefs, other people’s culture, and that is one of the purposes of President’s College; to teach respect to other Guyanese. People of different ethnic groups have the same civil rights in Guyana.
They must demand and they must receive equal access to the country’s resources. They must have equal opportunities for self-development. Men and boys must be taught to respect and treat women and girls as equals.
Politicians, policemen, magistrates and other officials must be taught to treat all citizens as equals. Progress would be impossible in a free state unless the dignity of its most vulnerable citizens – especially women, children and minorities – is respected. Wherever powerful people disrespect or discriminate against the powerless there will be conflict, there will be crime and there will be chaos.
Independence in 1966 replaced the physical images and removed the legal symbols of foreign domination and dependency. Our flag used to be the Union Jack of Britain, now we have our own flag, a symbol of Independence.
We used to get awards such as Member of the British Empire, Commander of the British Empire, but now we give our own awards, the Cacique’s Crown of Honour, The Order of Roraima, and The Order of Excellence.
The Independence movement, however, is incomplete. It left many citizens of the new state still languishing in the shadow of dependency. There are still too many poor people in Guyana; there is still too much political partisanship. There must be change.
In my view there must be a second Independence and that is your responsibility. Next year the 26th of May, 2016, we must have a second Independence, one that frees us from dependency, one that frees us from discrimination, one that frees us from domination and the abuse of rights and our freedoms.
Guyana is not an island; we live in a world in which communication technology and economic interdependence have transformed human life at a staggering speed. Many small countries like ours with highly educated societies have been successful in providing a higher quality of life for our citizens.
The next 50 years belong to you, young adults; people like you who are graduating this afternoon must look forward to building up Guyana over the next 50 years. You, in a decade or two, will be like Lumumba Angoy, carrying the torch of independent thought. You are tomorrow’s leaders.
This College, President’s College, by celebrating this ritual of graduation today, reaffirms the faith that our founders had, that our founders placed in education. Education, however, will not serve any useful purpose to this nation unless it contributes to making us personally free and unless it guarantees our national Independence.
Every generation of adults has the obligation to educate the next generation, to lead our nation out of its tribulations. Like a mother hen with her chicks, so the older generation must look after the younger. This College is demonstrating that it can do just that by educating independent-minded citizens to live in a free state.
Science and technology
President’s College was established 30 years ago in September 1985. We are here today to celebrate the achievements of the College over the past three decades. We are here today to congratulate the students who will be graduating from this college today.
President’s College, like other colleges in Guyana, will be assured that it will remain an institution of excellence. No college student anywhere in Guyana should ever be forced to fetch water to wash, or to fetch wood to cook. Wells should never again be allowed to run dry. Classrooms and dormitories should not suffer power outages. Playfields must be used for sport, not as cow pastures. Computer and science laboratories and technical workshops must not become junkyards and our libraries must not become museums.
We need a fresh approach to public education if we are to compete with other countries in this highly technological world. All of these changes won’t happen overnight, but we have to know that we have to work together to make these changes possible. This new approach as you have heard earlier emphasizes science, technology, engineering and mathematics — S.T.E.M.
Guyana cannot progress in this modern world without mastering modern communications technology. Global problems — such as combatting the adverse effects of climate change or finding cures for epidemic diseases like cancers or viruses like Ebola — all demand scientific solutions and we have to produce scientists who can solve these problems.
Science and technology, therefore, must be emphasized if solutions are to be sought by the present generation in present day Guyana.
So ladies and gentlemen, students, I speak to you today of Guyana’s second Independence, a new era that will require scientific solutions and technological skills. All Guyanese deserve to live a good life. This includes those students who will graduate today and next year and the following year. The quest for a good life entails ensuring that the country’s resources are developed for the benefit of this and future generations and I remind you we can only retain possession of our resources if we guard our independence against those who claim our territories. We can only possess our resources if we have the education and the skills to make use of those resources.
Guyana’s natural resources are to be found, largely, in the hinterland. For many of you, it is our forgotten frontier, but I’m happy that there are among you children from the hinterland and you can learn how they live, how they work, and how they survive. We have to open up our hinterland for further development. This entails building aerodromes, bridges, factories, ferries, highways, laboratories, ports, rails, roads and stellings.
Who will do these things? Guyana requires engineers to undertake these tasks. We need more geologists to explore and exploit our mineral resources. We need more agriculturalists to help us to feed ourselves and to feed the rest of the Caribbean which does not have land like we have. We need scientists to help us develop new crops, crops which are more resilient to disease and to extreme weather conditions. We need more doctors to detect and cure epidemic diseases like chikungunya and dengue.
Our education system must generate these skills, skills which are grounded in science and technology, skills which are necessary for national development. It is the intention of the Government of Guyana to continue the transformation of President’s College, and of Queen’s College and of all the other colleges into centres of excellence in science and technology.
President’s College will not progress by forever reminiscing about the past. It will prosper by planning and preparing for the future. Students of this College, wherever they come from, must know where they are going to. Students whatever their origins, must be certain about their destiny, they must be certain about their destination.
You, the graduating Class of 2015 must always strive for excellence; never tire, never quit in your quest for perfection and your quest for enlightenment. President’s College and Guyana respect your human worth.
Guyana celebrates its Golden Jubilee, its semi-centennial or as the Latin says, its ‘quinquagenary’ (I must teach the young teachers this word) in six months’ time. Quinquagenary- It means ‘our fiftieth anniversary.’ It’s an English word actually, with Latin roots.
Six months from now we’ll be celebrating our semi-centennial. My generation calls on your generation to face the challenges of the next 50 years. This is a special century for you and you have an opportunity to make the next 50 years the most glorious era in Guyana’s history.
Young Guyanese! We implore you to apply all that you have learnt at this great College. We urge you to step forward to lead Guyana into its second Independence, we urge you to put your knowledge and skills at the service of others and of our great country.
We urge you to be worthy graduates of this, President’s College.
We congratulate you on your graduation and wish you all success in the years ahead.
May God bless you and your families!
May God bless this College!
May God bless our beloved country Guyana!