H.E. David Granger: Ministers of the Government; Minister of Public Health; our co-hosts and our two social ministers: Minister of Social Protection and Minister of Social Cohesion; residents of River’s View; ladies and gentlemen and particularly the representative of Mohamed’s Enterprise (mining sector), which has made this donation today.
I am very happy to be here. Since January I have been praying for rain and now I come to River’s View I got what I have been praying for, the Lord has answered my prayers. I hope that in Rupununi now that the El Niño phenomenon has been completely forgotten and there is rain all over Guyana.
I am happy to be here at River’s View to be part of this ceremony and I am happy to be here because in this our 50th Anniversary year of independence that we will be celebrating a few days from now. We see Guyanese coming together and this is the way it should be; this is the way it should have been all the time, that Guyanese from every sector; public and private.
Government at the central level, government at the regional level, government at the municipal level; students and teachers, coming together to do good for Guyana and this ceremony is symbolic not only of the spirit of Guyana to come together to be unified but also our desire to move forward.
And this initiative didn’t come from the sky, it didn’t come from some dreamy person – it came from you, it came from the citizens of this country, it came from our campaign as Dr. Norton said, when we moved around this country to see how our citizens are living, particularly our students. And this is where the idea came from, it came from the experience that we have of interacting with citizens from Moruca right down to Achawib.
First of all, this initiative is about equality, that children wherever they are; whether they are from Corriverton or from River’s View, whether they are from Waramadong or New Amsterdam must have equal access to education; whatever their ethnicity, whatever their geography, whatever their status in life, every single Guyanese child must have a place in school. And it is my view and the view of our administration that no child should have to paddle two hours to go to school and two hours to get back, or to walk ten miles to go to school and ten miles to get back in the afternoon.
Children must have equal access. So, first of all this boat is to provide the means for equal access for every child, to be able to get to school and to get back home in safety, to do his or her homework and not to have to worry. Millions of dollars are spent every single month by parents having to pay for children to go to school; this is where the idea came from. In the Pomeroon River, a father having to pay $5,000 a week to send his child to Charity Secondary School and from Trafalgar Village of West Coast Berbice in Region Five.
A little girl won a scholarship to go to Berbice High School she lives in Trafalgar Village (some of you [have] never seen Trafalgar Village) but she had to pay $5,000 dollars to get a minibus to go over the Berbice River Bridge to go to Berbice High School, that can’t be fair and I have met scores of children who don’t go to school because they don’t have money for the bus fare. They drop out of school; they stay home because they can’t afford to go to school. How could that be fair? How could we develop a country if children can’t even afford to go to school? So this is a means of providing every single child with access, every single river, every highway.
We will do our best. We will do our best to ensure that children can get to school so they have an equal chance, equal with every other child in the country to do the best that they could do. So at the top of our agenda is making sure that there is equality in this country especially for our children to get to school.
The second purpose of this initiative is of course education. They say Bartica is the gateway to the interior well education is the gateway to a good life and we want every child to be educated just as I said two minutes ago; a child shouldn’t stay at home just because he or she doesn’t have transportation. Education is important if we are to develop this country and this great region that you live in, this great region that you are blessed with, this region if it was in the West Indies could have been a country.
Cuyuni-Mazaruni is bigger than The Netherlands, bigger than Holland you all could have been a country, but not yet. What we want is for you to use your education to develop this great region, to develop the resources, to have gold and mining industries which are responsible and sustainable and don’t destroy our hinterland, our terrain, our landscape- we want to see roads and highways. I grew up in Bartica, everybody talking about the ‘line’ anybody who lived in Bartica 70 years ago, it is still the line – we walked over the line.
Bartica-Potaro must have highways, we must have bridges, we must be able to develop our infrastructure so that children, so that adults, so that miners, investors could move freely throughout this great region and you cannot build infrastructure without educated engineers, you cannot build infrastructure without scientists, without technologists, without mathematicians. I am dismayed, distressed, when I see the results of National Grade Six Exams come out for the Cuyuni-Mazaruni area and the Potaro-Siparuni regions.
Bartica is a part of Region number Seven but traditionally Bartica brings eighth or Region Seven brings eighth place in the National Grade Six results. How could that be? I know everybody can’t be first but too many children in Region Seven are failing all of their subjects; all four subjects at National Grade Six, too many children are failing. So this boat hopefully will enable children to get to school and do better at the NGSA because we have the scheme to ensure that children who do well will be given some form of bursary to enable them to get into secondary school and to stay into secondary school.
And the third function that this boat will perform, will be to ensure that at the end of the day there is full employment through the length and breadth of Region number Seven from Bartica right through to Arau and to Kaikan. We want to ensure that children have jobs, right now too many children drop out of school, they go into the gold fields and unfortunately too many young women go into the gold fields and they do not end up with successful careers – some of them come to grief. Well, we cannot build a region, we cannot build a country, we cannot build an independent nation where our young men are exploited for their labour; our young women are exploited by unscrupulous traffickers.
So we want to ensure that young boys and girls having gotten good education in secondary school will be able to go to university. Why not come back and be the leading ophthalmologist like you know who? Any of you know any ophthalmologist? (Put up your hand if you know an ophthalmologist. Where he come from? River’s View?) Why one, why not ten? So we want to see employment and you cannot get proper employment unless you get education and you cannot get proper education unless you have a government which treats you as equal and don’t treat you like ‘bush’.
A government that doesn’t treat you as if you are part of the hinterland – as if you belong to some other country; so those are the reasons why we have launched this initiative. First of all to give you boats and those of you who are living along roadways or highways buses, as Dr. Norton that well-known ophthalmologist explained just now, ‘when you are riding in Bartica and your feet hardly touching the ground you call it a bus’ so you will be able to get to school and even those of you who are hungry, we will be able to, eventually, provide you with a breakfast.
So, if you have a transport problem, its either buses, boats or bicycles and in fact, when I was in Bartica last March we presented some bicycles too, but even if you are hungry we will do the best we could in the coming months to give you breakfast; in fact Colonel Abraham has designed an ‘Abraham’s breakfast’.
So every child will have a little box of milk or fruit juice and a roll with some peanut butter produced by the peanut farmers in the Rupununi region. So the ‘Bs’ will continue, not only boats, buses and bicycles but also breakfast and I do believe that the lady to whom I have been married for the last forty-six years has started to hand out some boots and shoes, so we are going to get some boots and shoes. And again, where does this come from? I was with the Minister of Social Cohesion in the village of Parashara in Region Nine, the Rupununi Region; 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, a whole school of children come out and not one of them wearing shoes, all of them barefoot, so I, as President cannot be satisfied with that so the ‘Bs’ will continue, until not only Bartica but Cuyuni-Mazaruni becomes the best ‘B’ of all, the best region in Guyana.
So I would like to record our thanks to the donors you have heard the remarks from the representative of Mohamed’s Mining Enterprise. I would like to thank, once again, the Toshao for allowing us into this village. I would like to thank the teachers, particularly the students who have given us those beautiful songs and the dances and particularly, I would like to thank in advance, the persons who would be using these boats to ensure that the children get to school.
There is a second boat, so River’s View you are lucky; some people only get one boat, some people ain’t get no boat, but you get two. The second boat is for emergencies, sometimes there are medical emergencies or other emergencies and we would like to enable you to move from Region Ten into Region Seven.
I do believe … as you know, you’re in Region Ten … the presence of the Chairman of Region Seven is purely accidental; he is representing the Chairman of Region Ten but we would like you to move from region to region so you have two boats; one for the school children and one for emergencies. So this is a good day for River’s View.
I would like to thank the donors and everyone who was part of this programme as you know in the Ministry of the Presidency, particularly the Minister of Social Cohesion has been driving the programme for boats, buses and bicycles in particular and I would like to thank her for continuing to make these arrangements and these contacts. She is moving from river to river, so if you have any rivers without boats just let her know but this is a good day for River’s View.
May God bless you all and please use these boats for the purposes for which they are intended.
God bless you all!