President David Granger: Thank you, please be seated. Thank you Headmistress for your kind introduction and thank you students for coming out and giving me such a warm welcome when I entered the compound this afternoon. I know you’ve been here for a long time so I’ll try to be brief.
Madam Chairperson, Ms. Sarah Cupidore; Honourable Amna Ally, Minister of Social Cohesion; Ms. Genevieve Allen, Chairperson of the Demerara-Mahaica Region Four, Mr. [Earl] Lambert, Regional Vice Chairman; officials of the regional administration; Mr. Peter Lewis, donor of this fine bus; residents of Kuru Kururu, students, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen:
As I said before, I am happy to be here and I’m grateful for the warm welcome. As Minister Ally has already said, our administration is trying to create an equal society and for all students to be able to grow up as members of an equal society as equal citizens. We need to give them equal access to education because education is the gateway to a successful career and to a comfortable life. So in presenting this bus this afternoon, it’s a step towards making Guyana a more equal society.
Inequality is created by people who are educationally deficient, people who are poor, people who don’t have opportunities. So this afternoon we want to give you, every single student of Guyana, the opportunity to do the best you can do, to become the best you can be; by having access to education and I know that many children don’t go to school because they have no transport or they have nothing to eat. I’ve been in every single region of this country and the idea for this school-bus came from students like you. Students in West Coast Berbice, students in Pomeroon River, many of whom don’t go to school simply because they can’t afford the transportation.
I always tell the story of a little girl who got a scholarship to go to Berbice High School. She lives in Trafalgar village on the West Coast of Berbice. Five thousand dollars a week her parents have to pay to get her from Trafalgar village to New Amsterdam. That can’t be fair. That could never be fair.
I know in the Pomeroon River, a father who actually left his farm to go into the goldfields to work for money to keep his children in school. That can’t be fair. He abandoned his farm because he loved his children so much, but now we’ve been able to put a bus in West Coast Berbice. We’ve been able to put a boat in the Pomeroon River. We’ve been able to put bicycles on the Corentyne coast and in so doing we must thank our donors because this didn’t come from government funds, it came from people like Mr. Peter Lewis, who saw the plight of children and who helped to make this initiative possible.
So we’re trying to make you all more equal. Education is not for rich people alone; education is for every single Guyanese. So this bus will open the door, will open the gateway, will provide you access to get to school and get to school for what? We believe that education is important for you to be able to grow up and develop a good career, have a good life. Without that education you’ll be ignorant, you can’t go on the internet, you can’t even get a licence to drive a minibus, you can’t even spell ‘bus’, you can’t spell ‘stop’.
A lot of children, and every single year, over four thousand children like you in primary and secondary school drop out of school. Every year four thousand children drop out of school and we are committed to putting an end to that and that is why we started this programme. It’s not an ornamental programme; it’s not a programme to get praises from the press; it is a programme to make sure you get to school because we want to create an education nation; a nation in which every single child is educated- not 60% or 70% but 100%.
If you are physically challenged you must be able to get to school. If you are visually challenged you must be able to get to school. If you are living at a great distance you must be able to get to school, that is our objective; and why do we want you to get to school? We want you to get to school because you will be able to get a good job for yourself. Many people in our country, many young people in all of these villages and even along the highway, you go along the coast, you go in the hinterland, they can’t find work. They are unemployed. Some of them because they dropped out of school, are unemployable. Nobody wants to hire them. They can’t even read ‘danger’, they can’t work in a factory, they can’t sign their name.
But [we] want to create a generation of young people who can satisfactorily find employment, not in the government, not in the army or the police, but self-employment right here in Kuru Kururu, right here on the highway, in the villages, in the towns; and we want you to be able to employ yourself because Guyana, and listen to me good children, Guyana is the biggest, the best and the most bountiful and the most beautiful Caribbean country, you hear me? [Applause.]
I hope you don’t have any people from Anguilla in the congregation here, because Anguilla small, but Guyana is big. There is enough room in Guyana for all of you and we must learn to produce food. We must learn to process all of this carambola (five finger) and passion fruit, into juices and preserves; we must learn to make guava jam and guava jelly, plantain chips and export these commodities to the Caribbean, that’s what I call agro-processing and you could do this on the highway, produce agricultural commodities and package them but how will you do that? You go to school and you learn science, you learn technology and in this way you’ll be able to employ yourselves and get rich. Don’t look forward to joining the army or the police or the civil service. Look forward to employing yourselves and that will be a lifelong experience, that you will be able to exploit the natural resources of Guyana and make yourself a prosperous citizen. So these are important. This bus will help you to become an equal citizen with others. This bus will be able to provide education by taking you to school. This bus will be able to provide employment for you when you leave school.
But that is not all. A few weeks ago, in March, we had something called Local Government Elections, many people, many of you of course, couldn’t participate because you are too young, but we want to see every community being able to direct its own affairs, every neighbourhood, every municipality, every town and that is why we had Local Government Elections. The other people haven’t had elections for over 18 years, but you now are a part of a generation that every three years you will be able to go out there and vote for the people you want to run your own community. It means that you will be empowered and education is part of that empowerment. You will be able to sit down in your councils, in your Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, in your Regional Democratic Councils and discuss how your neighbourhood would be governed. And this bus, simple as it looks, will give you that intelligence, will give you that knowledge, will give you that confidence; will give you an understanding of what takes place in government.
Government is at three levels, Minister Ally is from one level of government called central government; Ms. Genevieve Allen is from a second level called the regional government and in many other areas, 71 areas, is what we call municipal or local government – three levels.
Everybody is not at the same level, but you must enter that system of government through the local level, learning to go around your communities, seeing that the solid waste is removed, seeing that the canals are cleared, getting rid of mosquitoes and garbage. That is where it starts, then you go up to regional and then national or central government level.
So by accessing education you also empower yourselves to run your communities and make those communities better. And in running those communities you will be able to preserve your environment and this is what I want to tell you, because this area that you’re living in at Kuru Kururu, the environment is very fragile, as soon as you cut down a tree you see sand. Sand is sterile; sand is what is used to make glass. You have to preserve the environment, that’s why we call, as the headmaster said, ‘Green Granger’. Green doesn’t mean paint, green means vegetation, it means plants and trees and every year, [on] the first Saturday of October, Green Granger has decided is going to be National Tree Day and when I come to Kuru Kururu I don’t want to see people cutting down trees; I want to see people planting trees.
You know, I trained in Brazil and you go down some streets in Brazil you don’t see bush, you don’t see grass; you see mango trees, a whole street of mango trees and that is what we must learn to do in Guyana. Plant trees, fruit trees so that we can make mango juice and mango slices; plant cashew trees, plant tamarind trees so we can make tamarind balls, plant breadfruit trees. When I went to Bartica, where I grew up, I was told that if every household in Bartica planted a breadfruit tree when those breadfruit trees mature they can produce a million pounds a year of breadfruit alone in Bartica.
Any of you here are Bajan? Any Bajan put up your hand. Bajan don’t like to see breadfruit you know. [Laughter.] Bajan never see a breadfruit they didn’t want to eat. True, true story; but what I am telling you is that you have to protect this environment, it’s very fragile. Once you cut down a tree, its sand. So preserve your trees, plant trees in the areas where you have sufficient water. Let’s see pepper coming out, let’s see jamoon; let’s see sidium – everything you grow can be converted into juice, can be converted into preserves, into jams and jellies. So your environment is important.
You know children; sometimes you read in the paper about zika, any of you ever hear about zika? Wave your hand. Where zika come from? It comes from the sky? It comes from mosquitoes. Mosquitoes don’t live in the sand; they live and breed in water. So if you have pools and puddles, if your drains are clogged up, mosquitoes will breed and mosquitoes in this country are very dangerous.
Mosquitoes will bring malaria, they’ll bring filaria; they’ll bring big foot, nobody wants big foot. Mosquitoes bring dengue; all of these diseases – chikungunya – comes from mosquitoes. So you need a clean environment and we hope that these buses will contribute to making, as the headmaster says, not only a green president but a green Kuru Kururu. So my message to you this afternoon is very short and simple.
I want you to embrace this initiative and when you become rich you too will come back to Kuru Kururu and present a bus so that children can go to school on time. But I hope now that we’ve spoken, I hope now that you’ve heard the Minister of Social Cohesion and now that you’ve heard the poem, now that you’ve heard the headmaster, now that you’ve heard me; you understand better that this bus is not a PR gimmick, is not public relations, it goes to the heart of everything we mean and intend for you, the future of Guyana.
Look at me. I’m already over 50 years old, right? Am I over 50? There you go, I don’t tell lies. Your President is truthful. One of these days we have to hand over Guyana, bequeath Guyana to you and we want to make sure that the generation to which we hand over or bequeath Guyana is one that is more equal, is one that is empowered, is one that is educated, one of full employment, one that is empowered, not only in terms of enriching themselves but also in governing their communities, one in which the environment itself is protected.
This bus means everything, protect it and care it, protect your environment and thank you very much for coming out here to listen to ‘green’ president.