President David Granger: Ms. Delma Nedd, Permanent Secretary; Mr. Marcel Hutson, Chief Education Officer; Ms. Viola Rowe, Principal of the Cyril Potter College of Education; other members of the Board of Governors; staff of the Cyril Potter College of Education; distinguished invitees, graduants – the class of 2016; parents and well-wishers; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen:
I’m very happy to be here this morning with you to witness this ceremony, which is of course very significant for the graduants, particularly. You are wearing an outfit that you never wore before and that you will never wear again so it is a big day for you so make sure you all appear on Facebook.
Ladies and gentlemen, graduants, I had the honour of knowing and being taught by Robert Cyril Gladstone Potter – given the fact that he died in 1981 says how old I am. Robert Cyril Gladstone Potter was an exemplary Guyanese. He was born in May, 1899. He was a school master and of course, as you know, if you look at the back; at the back of your programme you will see the last name mentioned there. Yes, R.C.G Potter was the composer of our national anthem.
Cyril Potter was an ardent patriot whose life was one of the finest examples of public service: service to citizens; service to the community and service to the community. He understood what it took to make a nation and he dedicated his life to doing good for Guyana. Cyril Potter is an ideal role model for student teachers, who have had the privilege of studying at this college.
It ought to be an honour for graduates to have been trained in this college, which bears this man’s name. It should be an inspiration to everyone to emulate the life and labours of Cyril Potter.
Cyril Potter, like you, was a graduate of the Teachers Training College after he attended the Mico College in Jamaica, which at that time was the oldest and most prestigious teachers’ training institution in the Anglophone Caribbean. Of course there was no college here in Guyana, he had to go to Jamaica, but Potter and others of his generation laid such a foundation that our nation can boast today of having a college of its own and a prestigious college named after him.
Today, we the citizens of Guyana live in what I call a blessed country. You’ve inherited by the grace of God, a precious patrimony. We possess a land of luxuriant grasslands; of highlands; of islands and those three big islands in the Essequibo River: Hog Island, Leguan and Wakenaam are the size of the British Virgin Islands- the BVI. We are a land of wetlands, of lakes, of rain forest, of rivers and waterfalls. There are bountiful timber, minerals and other natural resources.
Your government is establishing or is on the way to establishing what I call a ‘green’ state; a state that emphasises the protection of our environment; it emphasises the preservation of our biodiversity; it emphasises the provision of eco-tourism and eco-educational services and the promotion of practical measures to ensure climate adaptation.
You the graduants – all teachers must understand this – this is where the country is going. Guyana faces environmental threats from various sources. The adverse effects of climate change which of course threatens our sea defences on our coastland; concerns over the sustainability of our water supply. Some people describe our rivers as our liquid diamonds and many of you who’ve been in the interior would know that without the rivers our communities would wither.
We are concerned about the security of our food supply. We are concerned about the generation of cheaper, clean, renewable energy. We are concerned about the prevention of diseases such as ebola, zika, and chikungunya across our borders and of course malaria and filaria, which gives so many people big foot.
The response to these global challenges requires scientific solutions, solutions which provide the present generation of students with an opportunity to be part of the process of finding solutions to these challenges. We look to promote solutions to national concerns, which help us to navigate through an increasingly interdependent and technologically well-informed global environment.
We look to prepare students for the technological changes that will open opportunities for school leavers to participate in a competitive economy. Teachers therefore, must understand what it takes to make Guyana great; to make Guyana a country in which its citizens can be given a good life. Teachers must understand what are the elemental needs for the people of our country; the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the water we drink, the houses we live in, the electricity we utilise, the boats, buses and bicycles that transport us to and from school, the books we read and write can be produced only by some form of science not by wishful thinking.
Science is about energy generation. Science is about solid waste management. Science is about creating green schools, clean compounds and communities- to achieve these things we need an efficient education system. We need to train architects, contractors and construction workers to build our houses. We need computer scientists to enhance our knowledge and expedite our transactions.
Our education system must train architects, contractors and construction workers to build our homes, computer scientists to enhance our knowledge and expedite our transactions, medical doctors and technologists to protect us from epidemic disease, or to cure our everyday disorders. We must train thousands of persons in manufacturing to fabricate machines, to process foods, and to make utensils. We must train miners to extract bauxite, diamonds, gold and manganese.
We must train young students, train them to be inventive and effective and to provide them with the opportunities to develop practical solutions to the physical challenge we face and we must train a generation of teachers to produce new textbooks to support the new teaching and to devise new techniques, which will transform our lives.
Teachers in this regard, must be more than mere tutors; they must be agents of change, agents of socialisation. They must mould the minds of our students, implanting knowledge, inculcating values and infusing the right attitudes in them. To improve teaching we want to see the maintenance of standards.
Principals, parents, teachers and students must be clear about what is expected in the classroom. Standards must be measureable and implementable. Standards must be the responsibility of school heads and educational authorities.
We need skills- teachers through training must be exposed to a multitude of skills so that they can be effective in transmitting knowledge to and building character of their students. Teacher training must be a career long exercise, pursuing professional development either in education or through specialization in subject areas and thirdly there must be supervision.
Heads of schools have a vital role to play in ensuring that the full curricula are delivered, that teachers complete their assignments and that classroom time is not lost. There is a correlation between the preparation of lessons and high levels of educational achievement and attainment. The One Laptop Per Teacher which was introduced on the 5th of October was aimed in part at ensuring that teachers from the level of Cyril Potter College of Education have this important tool at their disposal to help them prepare their lessons.
It’s a promise which I’d made to a previous graduating class and it’s a promise which I came to Turkeyen to fulfil last October and I brought a little envelope here to give your headmistress, your principal which will promote the program for teaching information technology at Cyril Potter College of Education and this will go to establishing it. I wouldn’t mention the amount but it’s more than nine hundred and ninety nine thousand dollars.
We want to see Guyana as an education nation. Training is essential for teachers. Training is essential for them to upgrade their skills, to acquire new knowledge. Training is essential to make subjects interesting and enlightening, to master new pedagogues, new techniques and new technologies. The untrained teacher has no place in the future of the educational system in Guyana and as I have done before; I like to use the analogy of flying an airplane; no-one would go into the airplane piloted by an untrained pilot, so why should anyone allow their children to be taught by an untrained teacher. We are looking for total training; not fifty or sixty or seventy percent, every teacher must be trained.
Trained teachers are essential for combating the decline in educational standards. We’re facing a crisis in education. We have a very high, unacceptably high dropout rate and I don’t need to remind you of the abysmally low pass rate in mathematics, particularly at the National Grade Six Exams this year. The Acting chief education officer Mr. Hudson would know that Cabinet engaged him on a couple of occasions to ensure that the results for 2017 are not a replay of the results of 2016.
Improvement in education attainment countrywide cannot be achieved unless we have a corp of trained teachers. That is why the ceremonies today is not just an empty ritual, it is not ornamental- it is essential to the future of our country. You teachers have to be nation-builders, you have educated or your profession has educated generations who in turn have made a contribution to national development. Everyone out there who makes a contribution: agriculturalist, bankers, businesspersons, civil servants, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, judges, nurses, policemen, politicians, sportsmen have all had to be taught by people like you.
Teachers are the foundation of our education system. They are essential to achieving the aim of education which is to produce graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes, values, behaviour and conduct to contribute to their personal development and to the enhancement of the development of the nation. You are the only ones who can really make Guyana an education nation.
I am therefore happy to be here today to congratulate you the graduating students.
I thank you for choosing one of the world’s most honourable professions.
I charge you with helping to improve the education standards in our nation and I close by reminding you of the example of that great man- the composer of the national anthem, Cyril Potter, one of the finest men I’ve ever known, and one of the finest teachers this country has ever produced.
I thank you.

Leave a Comment