President David Granger: Thank you very much for this warm welcome Toshao Mark George. Like the Vice President, I always greet the Toshao first because he is the only person in Guyana who has the authority to prevent me from coming into Annai, so thank you for allowing me to come into your community.
Vice President Sydney Allicock; Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally; Sessional Chairman, Mr. Virgil Harding; Mr. L. B King, Vice President of the Bina Hill Institute; other visiting Toshaos; members of the community; my good friend Colin Edwards- a stalwart; I think if he ever left here the rocks would collapse; Mr. Rockview; teachers; students; members of the media.
It is always good to come here in North Rupununi and thank you for arranging this wonderful weather because we were down in Aishalton; I think it was very drippy there. So it is good to be here in the sunshine among you. I was very interested, I was very glad that the last cultural item was that beautiful poem about Guyana.
This is a fantastic country, it is the biggest, the most beautiful, the most bountiful country in the Caribbean Community and I share the pride which you could have felt from Ms. Allicock as she recited Sister Rose Magdalene’s poem and I’m sure you all share that pride. And that pride comes from this environment, this is the only country we have; we have to protect it, we have to preserve it and it is in so doing that we will get a good life for all Guyanese.
No other country in the Caribbean is like this; you heard her- the mudlands, the grasslands, the wetlands, the islands of the Essequibo River, the highlands of the Pakaraima, the grasslands of the Rupununi. A fantastic country and this is a country that can give you a good living. This is the country that can give you the benefits of eco-tourism.
People come from all around the world to see the Rupununi. Just now you will have some exercise books- I don’t know if you have seen them as yet. Have you got exercise books yet? Could you wave it in the air? Look at that- who is on the cover? The President’s picture is on the cover? No? Are you sure that you have the right exercise books? What you have on the cover? You have the arapaima, you have the anaconda, you have anteaters, you have the Harpy eagle- these are the biggest animals in the world. Not the biggest animals in North Rupununi you know – the biggest animals in the world. Guyana! All twenty of those animals are world-class animals. Most of them come from here in the Rupununi. They don’t come from the islands of the Caribbean, they come from right here and we have to protect them, we have to preserve them because people will pay good money to come and see them that is why I say don’t make pepperpot with them, you know, don’t make souse. Keep them alive, they are worth more alive than dead.
Similarly, our forests – yes, we have to cut down the forest to make houses, but we must be very careful to harvest the forest in a sustainable way. The Amerindian people, like yourselves, have a saying, “the trees hold up the sky, if you cut down the trees the sky will fall”. We don’t want the sky to fall so we have to preserve our forests because those animals live in the forest. They live in the swamps. They live in the river and if you made this land into a desert the animals will die, but more than that this environment will give us a good living.
Everything that we need can be produced out of our soils: your peanut butter, your farine, your cashew nuts; your Brazil nuts; all come from the environment around us. Every single thing you produce could be sold. In fact, this Rupununi is the largest region in Guyana; bigger than Costa Rica. If the Rupununi was a country, it would be bigger than Costa Rica and that is why we must care for this region, we must care about developing it and we must care about protecting the environment.
I remember when I was campaigning with the hero – you know who that is? You know who is the hero? What? You don’t know? When I was campaigning with the Honourable Sydney Allicock we went from north to south. I went into the Moco-Moco Valley and was driving on mangoes, so many mangoes that the pigs don’t want to eat mango; the pigs fed up of mangoes. The pig want to eat something else now, but the point I’m making is that the Moco-Moco Valley alone was able to produce so many mangoes but they were going to waste.
But when you go into Lethem, you go into the logias, the shops you call them – at least I learn one good Portuguese word – logia – you’re buying Brazilian mango juice and you’re driving on Guyanese mangoes in Moco-Moco. Can’t be right! So we need to use the environment to make the people of the Rupununi rich. We need to use the environment to produce the food, not only mangoes and other fruits, not only cassava, peanuts, but all of these commodities could be produced.
I am very upset when I go to Bonfim, when I go to Boa Vista, to see young people from the Rupununi there looking for jobs, trying to do menial work, when of course they could be millionaires right here in Guyana, but it is the environment that will make us rich and our ability to apply our wisdom, our intelligence, our education, our knowledge to this environment. That is why I am here this afternoon because the bus that you see behind you symbolises the commitment of this Government to ensure that every child goes to school. ECIS-Every Child in School that is my motto.
And I learnt from you; I learnt from the people of the Pomeroon, from Akawini. I learnt from the people in the rivers: the Demerara, Essequibo, Berbice rivers, Canje River because when I was campaigning you would meet children- twelve, thirteen years old you give them a book.
‘Sir, an cyan read.” How do you mean you can’t read? You’re twelve, you’re thirteen, you should be doing your National Grade Six, you should be looking forward to doing your CXC subjects. She can’t read because she doesn’t go to school. She doesn’t go to school because she can’t afford the transportation to go to school so she stays home. She becomes a dropout. She sees a card, she can’t read ‘cat’, she can’t read ‘dog’, she can’t read, ‘bat’ because she never went to school to learn to read; that’s a shame. You, the children of Guyana, have to inherit this country. No politician, no president, no hero could carry the country with him. He has to leave it for the next generation so my main purpose for being here this afternoon is to encourage you to stay in school and by providing a bus means that children would be enabled to go to school. No longer can you say, ‘I can’t go to school because I don’t have transport, I can’t afford the transport’, but all over this country we have children paddling boats to go to school. We have children walking miles to go to school miles to come back. By the time they get to school, they’re tired. By the time they come back home, they can’t do homework, they’re tired. So we want to make life easier for children so they can go to school.
I am sure that once we get the bulk of our children, not the bulk of our children, once you get every child going to school, staying in school, completing his or her secondary school you’re going to see how quickly this country would move forward because you will have the knowledge, the education, to find good employment and that is the third thing I want to talk to you about.
I talked to you about the environment; I talked to you about education; now I’ll talk to you about employment – ‘wuk’! Some people don’t like work, but you have to work to thrive and survive. All over this country, young people are unemployed. Not every young person, but there are too many young people who don’t have work, who are unemployed and those are the people I see sometimes in Boa Vista. People drift across the border, people who go to secondary school and Rupununi now has four secondary schools, I believe here at Annai, St. Ignatius, I think we have Aishalton, Sand Creek – maybe they are not enough and the distances are great, but even children who go to those secondary schools, sometimes they graduate; there’s no work for them in the Rupununi and they go across the border. I’m not trying to prevent anybody from going across the border; I’m not trying to prevent anybody from finding profitable or lucrative jobs, but what I am saying is that that same poem Ms. Allicock read, about that beautiful country could give you a good living and that employment is right here producing the things in the Rupununi, which you know the Rupununi could produce well; agricultural commodities mainly, ecotourism mainly, these are lucrative jobs. If we made use, not only of the raw materials and the environment, but if we had the education, if you had access to information, if you had the technology – the Rupununi is the largest region in Guyana, my brothers and sisters. I’m aware that there are problems of infrastructure; look at the roads, look at the state of information technology, look at the aerodromes, but let us work together to improve those deficiencies and at the same time generate more wealth, right here in the Rupununi.
Brazilians are coming into the Rupununi because they have a reason to come here: to get wealth. Chinese are coming into the Rupununi; Bangladeshis are coming into the Rupununi, what’s wrong with you? They’re opening shops in Lethem, what wrong with you? What about the Macushi restaurant? What about the National Bank of Macushi? What about Macushi supermarkets? What about Macushi lawyers and doctors and engineers? Why not? This region doesn’t belong to other people, it belongs to you.
I’m not chasing other people, I don’t dislike other people but I’m saying you must be able to grasp education so that you could become rich and prosperous like them. Let’s see more contractors, more development taking place here, led by the great people of the Rupununi, the Macushi and the Wapisiana and the Wai-Wai people and further north, and the Patamona.
So what we need, I feel, this situation is a condition in this region where children understood the importance of education and moreover the parents made a vow that their children would stay in school; primary school, secondary school and go to university and qualify as doctors and engineers and contractors and lawyers and accountants like anybody else.
My own party – I’m not here to talk party politics, but we have a scholarship programme and every time I go down south I could tell you which student came from Shulinab, which student came from Annai, who has enjoyed those scholarships. We give a child $50,000 to buy books and to help that child to go to school and the children of Rupununi have never dropped out of that programme. We start with them at age 11 and they continue to get our bursaries. They’re part of that family and what I would like to do is too urge the people of the Rupununi to ensure that their children, once they finish the National Grade Six, they go to secondary school and they stay in secondary school all the way up to university. Education is not primary alone; it has a nursery part, it has a primary part, it has a secondary part and a tertiary part and once those parts are put together you’ll see the transformation of the Rupununi.
So my message to you today is a very simple one: it is based on education and these buses are just one step to help you to fulfil that ambition of education. Where did the buses come from? Well, good question. They came from you because you gave me that idea. Going up the Pomeroon River, going down south, in Suwarewau seeing these children walking these long distances to go to school in Pomeroon, people paddling, some people dropping out because they can’t afford…
I made a vow – when I became president I would try my best to provide transportation to get children to school. Luckily, I’m supported by a certain Minister in the ministry of buses. You never hear about the ministry of buses? Ah, it’s not a ministry, I’m just joking. Minister Amna Ally, is sitting right here. She ensures that month by month we try to acquire buses, boats and bicycles so that children could get to school. So education, I agree with you. Education is of prime importance. Don’t drop out, don’t quit.
The second thing that is important is your employment. Do not believe that you could survive without a job. You need to work and what I’m asking you to do is find work right here in Rupununi. Some of you might complain that oh yes, he come from town or he come from somewhere else, put on a switch and he get light, plug in something, equipment starts to work. Not so. The first time I came to Rupununi we had wind chargers here. People generated electricity from wind chargers and I always boasted about my little watch here.
I don’t have to wind it up. I don’t have to do anything. I just got to walk in the sunlight every now and then and the sun runs my watch. It’s a solar watch. So right here the Rupununi generates more sunlight per year per hectare than any other part of Guyana. I know a few houses have got some small panels, but we have to move toward solar farms so that whole communities could get the benefit of solar energy.
And sometimes I go by Moco-Moco there by the hydro-plant there and I feel like crying because we need to bring that plant back into operation – and we will. It was working, the lines are running all the way to Lethem, but there was an accident and instead of repairing the damage, the plant was shut down. What I’m saying is the Rupununi has the capability to generate electricity, sustainable electricity by water, by wind, by sun.
I was very proud, years ago, I don’t know if it’s there now, but I went into a little building in Saint Ignatius and there were three women, not singing and dancing but working hard, bringing in cashew nuts, parching and I go downtown, go down to Nigel’s Supermarket and there we had cashew nuts from the Rupununi.
You can make a living and you can use energy to do the packaging, to do the bottling and it will help you to get your goods to the market. So all in all children of the Rupununi, my message is one of hope and the bus will move you from where you are to that promised land. Education, employment, environment and of course energy, and this is the message I want to leave with you.
Thank you very much for coming out here this afternoon. Thank you very much for staying in school. I would like to be able to give you more than one bus, but unfortunately I can’t afford it. I remember when I came here first, not first, I came here on another occasion in 2011. I donated a computer to a teacher and that’s where I got the idea from because she came back to me and said, “Mr. Granger, this computer is helping me with my lesson plan.” That’s where I got the idea from.
When I went back to Georgetown I announced, “Don’t worry with this one laptop per family, one laptop per teacher” and thank goodness on World Teacher’s Day, last year, we were able to start giving teachers. As soon as a teacher enrols in the Cyril Potter’s College of Education he or she should be able to get a laptop because there is no point in having the students learn information technology and the teachers aren’t learning it. So that’s where the idea came from.
So my brothers and sisters, once again Toshao George, children of the Rupununi, thank you for having me in your company. I bring you a message of hope as I said and I’m sure that once you embrace education, once you embrace employment, once you embrace and love this environment and you adopt the techniques of renewable energy, you could be guaranteed- not only a life of prosperity for yourselves but a good life for generations to come.
Thank you and may God bless you all.

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