President David Granger: Honourable Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry; Centre Administrator, Mr. Sydney Scott; Assistant Director of Youth, Ms. Leslyn Boyce; members of the staff of the Kuru-Kuru Training Centre; students; members of the media; friends.
I had asked the Minister of Education to arrange this visit for me because we are interested in looking at all aspects of youth education, youth empowerment and youth employment throughout the country in all of our regions and this centre is an important element in youth education, empowerment and employment. And today I have come to listen to you. I have come to learn from you; I have come to hear what your concerns are; hear what your ambitions are; hear what your hopes are- so that together we can plan for not only your development but for the development of the whole country.
You know, we live in a magnificent country- Guyana. Some of you have come from different parts, different regions of the country, but I am sure that you have one aim; one objective; one ambition. You all want to have a good life; you all want to be comfortable; you want to be healthy; you want to perhaps get married, have a family, have children, have a good house, maybe have a car, if you are in a riverine area- have a boat. But you can have a good life- everybody wants to have a good life. You don’t want to be a criminal, burn down the prison; police chasing you. You don’t want to be a crook; you don’t want to be a smuggler- you want to live a good, honest life. That’s what we want for you; that is what you want for yourself. So my visit here today is interactive. This is not a clergy; we are not as priests and pastors here to tell you what to do, what to believe. In a few minutes time, we will change up the layout here so that we can see one another better and talk to one another. Some of you at the back just looking at the head of the person in front of you, but we’ll change up the layout just now, so we can look at one another in the face.
Now what are we trying to do in Guyana, in the Ministry of Education? We’re trying to give you the opportunity to live long full, productive lives and we feel that one of the most important things for you at this stage of your life, when you are young, is to have a sound education. We have a motto ‘Every Child in School’, but we know that some children drop out of school for different reasons; sometimes there are no teachers at school, they don’t have transport, they don’t have food to eat in the morning, so they don’t go to school or sometimes they start to go to school and then they stop. The result is by the time they are eighteen or nineteen years old, they haven’t completed school; they’re not literate, they can’t spell cat, can’t spell dog. They’re eighteen years old, they got tattoos, they got ear ring, but they can’t even spell dog. Nobody is going to employ them; nobody is going to give them any job. Because they can’t read if they can’t count, they can’t spell and they have not completed their school education. So we want children to stay in school because by being in school you can learn the skills which you need, the skills which will help you to employ yourselves or which will help you to seek employment with others, but we understand the situation in different parts of the country, why children drop out of school.
So we try to organize training sessions, training courses, so children who drop out of school, for any reason at all, can get back into school and catch up with their colleagues from the village or the community so that they wouldn’t be deprived when they become adults. But if you are to understand the world around you, how that generator works, how the grass grows, how to produce products on your farms, you have to be educated. We have a formal education system: nursery, primary, secondary schools and the university, but some people, unfortunately, could pass from babies to adults without even going into one of those institutions. So the first thing I would like you to understand is the importance of being in school so that you can get a formal education, no matter what you learn from daddy or mommy, you still need a formal education and that’s why you’re here at KKTC to help you to re-engage or to engage in a formal education system. So the first thing is for you to understand the necessity for education.
It’s a personal pledge you must make; it’s a pledge your parents must make, it’s a pledge your teachers and the staff must make to ensure that you get a sound education. If they don’t support you, if they allow you to be at home during the day, to be in the village, to go swimming, to pick fruits when you should be in school you’ll end up being a grown-up, an adult, without that complete education and what will happen? You are very likely to be unemployed. So the second objective we have in this ministry is to ensure full employment for all Guyanese. We do not believe that a single Guyanese man or woman should be unemployed. We feel that each one of you deserves to be employed. We’re looking for jobs because when you get a job you can produce; if you’re a farmer, a fisherman, a civil servant- you can produce.
You can earn a living, you can earn a salary, you could produce goods and commodities which could be sold; if you are running an internet café you could provide services. Once you’re employed, there is that dignity, that self-esteem that you can earn your living; you don’t have to beg mommy and daddy for money. You can have a house, a car, you can raise a family, so employment is important to your self-esteem; it’s important to your survival. All over this country from Aruka down to Achiwuib; from Orealla to Kaikan; you find unemployed young people and once they are unemployed, they cannot have that good life; they can’t eat properly, they can’t look after their health, they can’t look after their families. Some of them migrate; they go across the border, they work in Brazil, work in some farming or some restaurant.
They go to Venezuela, they go to Suriname, sometimes they stay in their own villages, their own communities- loitering, no work to do. We don’t want that to happen to you, but we feel that once you complete your education, you can look for employment, preferably with yourself, but if not, maybe you can work for somebody else or you can work for the government but let me tell you now the government doesn’t have jobs. Government can’t make all of you soldiers and policemen and civil servants. The best form of employment is self-employment. So you can become a farmer, you could become a fisherman, you could become a craftsman, a manufacturer and that’s one of the reasons why we have institutions like this – the Kuru Kuru Training Centre here. So your employment is the second thing that we aim at and when you leave here you must want to work, you must want to enter the world of work to become an independent producer- that is very, very important to you.
The third thing I would like to leave with you is this beautiful country- Guyana, the environment in which we live. Some of you have those exercise books; when you look at those exercise book cover what do you see? What do you see? As long as you don’t see the President of Guyana; he’s not on the cover there? No. You see the ‘giants’ of Guyana; that is part of our environment. Guyana, your country is the biggest country in CARICOM and for me it is the most beautiful country in CARICOM.
It’s the most bountiful country in CARICOM. It can give you all a good living. Anybody here from Region One, put your hands you let me see? There you go. Barima-Waini, thank you. You know the Barima-Waini is four times the size of Trinidad and Tobago. You know that? That region alone is four times the size of Trinidad and Tobago.
Anybody from Region Two, Pomeroon-Supenaam? Thank you. And when you go through this entire country, when you go to Region Seven, the Mazaruni-Cuyuni is bigger than the Netherlands; go through Region Eight the Potaro-Siparuni; go to Region Nine the Rupununi – bigger than Costa Rica; the biggest region in Guyana is bigger than the Republic of Costa Rica. So this is a big country, but we have to protect it, we have to protect that environment, we have to protect our trees because those animals – they don’t live on the white sand, they live in habitats and the trees protect the habitat.
Guyana is part of what you call the Guiana Shield, an area that is bigger than Greenland and this Guiana Shield has rain forest and those rain forests provide the habitat for our monkeys, our bats. So when you look at the cover there you’ll see some of the biggest animals in the world; the biggest freshwater fish in the world comes from Guyana, the Arapaima. The biggest anteater in the world comes from Guyana, the biggest snake in the world comes from Guyana, the biggest ant in the world comes from Guyana. The biggest bat in the world comes from Guyana. This is not a movie; this is not social media; this is true, true story.
We possess over twenty of the biggest animals in the world. What I’m saying is that we need to protect this environment because the environment protects us and protects those animals. So you have an opportunity to see in these animals; to see in this environment – a good life, a future. So when you go back to the Barima-Waini you must look at your own region with a different pair of eyes. When you go back to the Rupununi and you see an anteater or you see a tapir or you see an anaconda, don’t think of curry; don’t think of souse. Think that if you protect these animals one day you may become a tourist operator and people will come from Ireland and Germany to see these beautiful animals. There are over eight hundred and fifty species of birds in Guyana. There are more birds in the Kanuku Mountains, in the Rupununi, than in the whole of Western Europe, more species of birds. This is a beautiful country, but you have to inherit that country. You have to grow up to become adults and say, hey, this is what our fore parents have bequeathed to us, passed on to us and this country will give you a good living. Whatever you want to do, if you want to be a farmer, you can be a successful farmer. If you want to be an engineer, you can be a successful engineer in this country but what I’m saying is let us use our time here at Kuru-Kuru Training Centre to look at our environment with a different pair of eyes.
Let us try to protect our environment. Let us stop polluting our rivers, let us stop generating tons and tons of waste and throwing that waste into our canals, let us stop unnecessarily cutting down trees and creating a desert, let us stop polluting the air, let us cut down on the use of fossil fuels and we can do all of these things. I hope that the next time I come to KKTC I don’t hear a noisy generator, but I see electricity generated form solar panels.
Discuss with your minister, please, how we can convert this entire campus into one that is powered by sustainable energy and that is the fourth ‘E’, the energy that we use in Guyana. Some of us like to talk about petroleum. We think that energy can only be generated from Exxon but in every part of this country we could generate energy from sustainable sources.
No more power plants, no more generators but we can use solar power to generate electricity to run your computers, to run your medical centre, to run your classrooms and you have twelve months. By 1st of August 2018, Kuru-Kuru Training Centre must become ‘green’. We’re creating a ‘green state’ and this centre must be powered with ‘green’ energy, renewable energy. You know when I was a young person like you, a long time ago, I used to live on the Corentyne and all of the rice millers used to generate electricity by using wind chargers. Day and night the wind was blowing. It turned the chargers and the chargers generated electricity.
No GPL, just wind. My watch here, I don’t have to do anything with this watch other than wear it. The light, sunlight, generates the power that drives this watch. It’s a solar watch, and all over this country, in the Rupununi for example, you get more daylight hours in the Rupununi, more sunlight hours than in any other part of the country and that sunlight could generate electricity and then you have hydro.
Hydro doesn’t mean you have a big dam. Sometimes as long as you can see a river that’s moving, you can use that movement to generate electricity, as long as the water is moving you it generate electricity. So you have hydropower, you have solar power, you have wind power and we must use natural sources to generate electricity and with that energy you can run your homes, you can run your villages, you can open a little business when you go back to Hosororo, when you go back to Hotoquai, when you go back to Region Eight or Region Nine. You don’t have to depend on carrying in dieseline and gasoline and when you come back to Kuru-Kuru year after next, you will see a ‘green’ campus powered by sunlight.
So energy is needed for industry but we mustn’t get drunk on oil. We’re drinking too much oil in this country. We get intoxicated. We feel that every time we open a little mine, every time we open a little enterprise we need to bring generators and drums and drums of gasoline. Some people make their living by smuggling gasoline. You don’t have to smuggle sunlight, you don’t have to smuggle wind. It’s the gift of God and that gift could be used to power industries. It can be used to run your businesses; it can be used to help you to run your internet café.
So if when you leave here you decide to become a businessman or a businesswoman and to use your skills to become a manufacturer or a food processor and you can sell guava jam or guava jelly or guava cheese to Trinidad and Tobago, you can sell coconut water to Trinidad and Tobago but you can get power to run your little enterprise from renewable sources. So this can give you hope that when you leave here you don’t have to go and look for lil ‘wuk’; you can employ yourself, you can educate yourself and you could become an entrepreneur. So you can enrich yourself also with the type of education that you are getting here.
When we speak of employment therefore, we don’t speak of sending you to some labour exchange for you to sign up a few papers and get a job. We want you to go back to your regions and look for opportunities there so that you could become an entrepreneur. You could become an entrepreneur because when I go around this country, I see so much production. I go to Moco-Moco in the Rupununi and I’m walking on mangoes; I go to Hosororo; even the pig fed up eating mangoes, mangoes too much.
All of these products could be converted. From mangoes you could make mango chunks, mango juice. You have a French company; people come thousands of miles from France to pick our heart of palm and there’s nobody in Guyana doing the same thing. In the Rupununi you drink a lot of Brazilian mango juice but we’re not using our own fruit. You go in the supermarkets all over the country you see plantain chips from Guatemala, tamarind balls from Jamaica; these are things we could make ourselves if you sought to become entrepreneurs, and sought to use the knowledge you gain here at Kuru-Kuru to open your own businesses.
Change is taking place in this country. We’re not creating a heavily centralized government with an army of public servants. We’re developing independent regions. That is why we created a town in Mabaruma so we could administer that whole region. That’s why we created a town in Bartica so we could administer the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region. So every region is going to have a town and every region is going to be able to develop quickly and independently because what I’ve seen of this country is that every region has a unique economic potential. Whether that potential is in agriculture, whether it’s in tourism, whether it’s in manufacturing, whether it’s in mining, every region could be strong and if I have ten strong regions, it means I have a strong country that’s what it means to me.
So boys and girls, staff and students, I’m very happy to be here today to share these ideas with you. You represent the future of Guyana. You are the future. Where I’m heading, I can’t take Guyana with me, I have to leave it for you and the most I can do is help to prepare you to take control of this beautiful country. The most I can do is to show you the way, to show that you have the vision and you have the inspiration to become successful citizens and to enjoy that good life to which all Guyanese boys and girls are entitled.
Thank you very much and may God bless you all.