(19th October, 2015 ) Mr. Chairman, Deputy Principal, President of the Parent Teachers Association, Students:
H.E Brigadier David Granger: I am here because I am the President and this is President’s College, right? I am supposed to be here, I am happy to be here, I am honoured to be here. This morning my remarks will be brief as well because I have come here to look; I have come here to listen; I have come here to learn and I will be back again in November.
“Ah I gon talk ma mind; I gon talk ma mind next month.” But today I hope to learn from you all, and your staff and … I have come to look around at your surroundings. I have come to see how the students study and live in this campus.
You know fifty nine years ago, if you could imagine that, in 1956, I myself was like you. I went into Queens College after completing what was then called ‘Common Entrance’ so I know what your expectations are because I have been this way, others will pass this way, and you will go on to have successful careers, successful lives.
Everything must change. Guyana changes, our lives change, our regions change and the way we do things in Guyana must change. Sometimes when you do things which are wrong they have to be corrected.
Nothing is wrong with making mistakes but something is wrong when you don’t learn from your mistakes. So if things are not going well we have to find out what are the reasons. As I said today I have come to learn because I don’t think that any other school in this country gets as much media attention as President’s College, Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
But you know I’m not President of President’s College, I’m President of Guyana, all Guyana. So although I love you, I love Guyana too, and I must make sure that the resources of Guyana are available to all regions of Guyana.
I must make sure that all of the children of Guyana have access to the services of the state and here you might have about six hundred students but in Guyana there are about 75,000 secondary school students.
I cannot ignore seventy five thousand and just pay attention to the six hundred. I have to be President of everybody but at the same time I’m interested in high standards and nothing will be done during my tenure of the Presidency to lower the standard of President’s College.
There are problems in the education system. Everyone knows that, and again I have not come here to criticize or to throw stones. But at the level of National Grade six, about two out of three students who write that examination could be classified as having failed. So every Easter time fifteen thousand students write examinations and about ten thousand fail.
You are already lucky because the majority of children who wrote the exam will fail and we have to correct that, we mustn’t sweep it under the carpet, we mustn’t hide our present statistics. It’s like if you have a disease, you have to cure the disease or else you will continue to be ill and there are problems within the education system that we have to correct, and as you can see from the colour of my hair I have been around for a long time and I have been to every single region of this country, from Moruca right down, from Kaikan to Orealla. I have been there and I am concerned about the conditions under which children are educated.
That is why for example, I have introduced a scheme starting in the Pomeroon River for school boats. Because the Pomeroon has no roads, has no highway. For children to get to school they have to go by river. The river is the highway in the Pomeroon, but sometimes parents have to spend five thousand dollars a week to get their children to school.
That cannot be sustained and that is why we have introduced a system now of having school boats; so that the children can go from wherever they are living in the lower Pomeroon to Charity Secondary School. So y’all got it easy, you can’t swim that distance.
Similarly, there are going to be more boats from upper Pomeroon to go to Charity and there will be school buses and there will be bicycles. So we will be having the three B`s, bikes, buses and boats but the important thing is that children must get to school.
Wherever they live, they must be able to get to school. So my visit here today is part of my whole purpose of being President, to make sure that this administration, that this President will be able to hand over to you, the children of Guyana, a country that is in better shape than we found.
There must be improvement from year to year, from government to government otherwise we’ll be wasting time, and my task is to ensure that you would enjoy the conditions that will help you to be good citizens, and help you to have a good life.
I do believe that Guyana is the best country in the Caribbean. We are the biggest country in the Caribbean. We are the most bountiful country in the Caribbean and that is why it’s a good thing for the children from all parts of Guyana to be able to mingle, to mix and share experiences.
I wish every year we could take children from the coastland into the hinterland, bring children from the hinterland on to the coastland and that is why I’ve asked for establishment of something called the National Cadet Corps.
So that right here in President’s College you’ll be able to join the Cadet Corps and during the August holidays you’ll be able to go to other parts of the country to see how other people live. I want you to see waterfalls, I want you to see the rivers, I want you to see the mountains, I want you to see our beautiful flora and fauna, the biggest eagle in the world, the biggest anteater in the world, and the biggest freshwater fish in the world.
All of these things come from Guyana. Guyana is not made up of a few little house lots. Guyana is made up of a vast country looking like a sea of broccoli. Sometimes you go on a mountain in Iwokrama and everywhere you look all you’re seeing is green and you must be able to tell yourself this is my land, I love this country and I want to grow up and serve this country.
So how are we going to get there? We are going to get there because you have to take over this country. We, these young people that are here, have to hand over the country to you. You will be the future; you are the future of Guyana so we have to prepare you to take over this beautiful and bountiful country.
So what we do here will determine what happens to Guyana and that is why today, even without listening to your principal or your staff I would like to see that President’s College would take the lead as a college of science and technology because the poetry is good, the history is good, the drama is good, the sports are good, but we have to open this country.
We have to build highways and bridges, you have to build stellings, you have to build factories, and to develop this country we don’t only need poetry and history we also need engineers, we need mathematicians, we need architects, we need scientists. We need to study biology and chemistry and physics and zoology if not to make use of these abundant resources which God has given us.
So President’s College will take the lead along with other secondary schools in opening this new chapter of science and technology education. So we’re moving forward not going backwards. But I want you to bear in mind that as we move forward we need to accept and adopt new technology. We can’t live in the past; we have to look to the future. Right here, This College is the gateway to the good life; this college is the gateway to changing Guyanese economy.
When I was young I always spoke about the six sisters- rice and sugar, bauxite and gold, diamonds, timber, fish. Now I am getting old. Our economy is based on rice and sugar, bauxite, gold diamonds, timber and fish. We have to change, we have to start making things, we have to start manufacturing and I look to you, the next generation, to move the economy forward and it must start here. Education must open the door to employment.
I became a soldier but I also had a lot of occupations. I don’t want you all to become soldiers and policemen and clerks. I want you to become manufacturers, businessmen and women, entrepreneurs. I want you to be self-employed. I go to the Rupununi, I go to Barima-Waini, I go to Mazaruni-Cuyuni, all the regions of this country, and so many of our young people leave school and sometimes they have the CSEC but there are no jobs, they go across to Brazil to become a waitress in some restaurant or become a farmhand.
Many more are dropping out of school. Every single month over five hundred children drop out of school, primary and secondary school. Some of them remain unemployed, some of them are unemployable because they cannot read, write, count and spell properly.
So education is the gateway to employment (not looking for lil’ wuk). Education is the gateway to self-employment. You will be able to find work, even if that work is for yourself. Education is the gateway to becoming entrepreneurs, opening your own businesses. Education is the gateway to empowerment; so that you could become the Chairman of the Demerara/Mahaica regions like, Ms. Alleyne, here; you can become President; some one of you here could become President because of the education you have been taught.
So, education is the mother of everything good that you want to achieve in this life but at the same time you must make sure that we do not create the conditions for what they call education apartheid. Some of you may not know what apartheid means. It is really a Dutch word meaning; apartness or separateness.
There used to be a place called South Africa with a terrible system of apartheid of which people of one ethnic group were kept down by the people of another ethnic group but when I speak of educational apartheid, I speak of a system of which a lot of people continue to drop out and few people continue to succeed, and what happens is that the gap opens between the few highly educated and the mass poorly educated.
This would become an unequal society in which you have some people who are intelligent and educated, perhaps become rich and a lot of people who have dropped out and not completed their education and remain poor.
So what we want to do in Guyana is close the gap; what we want to do is to remove the inequalities, so that everyone, based on merit, has the same access to a good education and the best. People who; students who; young persons who study hard must be rewarded for their hard study; hard work.
If people are studying, paying attention to their books and their lessons, other people are liming by the corner, smoking all sorts of strange substances, when the time of the exams comes they will fail. If other people are working, as they say, burning the midnight oil, paying attention to their books, they probably will do better than succeed.
But what we need to do here and elsewhere in our education system is give all children access to quality education everywhere; not five top schools; not ten top schools but fifty top schools, why not? We want to make sure that everyone can get the benefit of a good education, as I said; I go to all the regions and I visited Parashara – anybody from Rupununi here? You know where Parashara is? I was in Parashara, 3’o clock on a Friday afternoon, children were just coming out of school and not one of them had a pair of shoes on.
You all wouldn’t tolerate that in Golden Grove South but that is normal in some parts of Guyana. These are things I had to think about because they are Guyanese children and we cannot allow one set of people to be left behind and another set of people to move ahead.
So in looking at the public education system, we have to think about access; we also have to think about the appropriateness of the education. As I said; “the only thing that is constant is change” and Guyana is changing and if we are to build those bridges and those high ways, if we are to stimulate manufacturing and expand our economy, we have to change and embrace technology, particularly now, information technology.
As I told students at the rally and the Chief Education Officer would remember, I said in this country alone there are about six hundred thousand mobile phones, maybe some people have two, some people have three, maybe some people have none but at a place call Karawak, in region two and in order to use the mobile phone, in order to get connectivity, you have to climb to the top of a coconut tree.
So I told the people in region two, “When they buy a mobile phone, they must buy a coconut tree with it” But students, we cannot keep abreast with other countries; with Barbados or Trinidad or Surinam or Brazil, if we do not embrace information technology. We cannot keep abreast if we do not change our education system by embracing science.
So these are things we have to do right here in South Golden Grove, and this is the direction we are going to be moving in. Today I am very happy to be here. I am very proud and honoured to be the patron of this school, this college and I pledge to you to uplift and uphold the high standard of this college and not to do anything that will affect the standards and the quality of the education which you all expected to have access to when you come to this college.
As I said today, I’ve come to listen, to look and to learn but when I come back I’ll have something to tell you.
So thank you very much for your warm welcome along the way. Thank you very much teachers for the work that you are doing to maintain the high standards in this important secondary school, this important college.
I would like to take the opportunity to walk around and see the circumstances and conditions. I don’t like to make decisions without evidence. I’ve come here to find out first and talk later.
So thank you, thank you for your welcome and … May God bless you all.