President David Granger: This is a very happy congregation today. You all are very glad to graduate. Chief Education Officer, Mr. Marcel Hutson; Chairman of Saint Stanislaus Board of Governors, Mr. Chris Fernandes and other executive members of the Board; executive members of the various alumni associations; Principal of Saint Stanislaus College, Ms. Paulette Merrill; special invitees; parents, teachers, guardians and most important, the graduating students this afternoon.
Saint Stanislaus College is part of what I call the Georgian league of colleges in Guyana. You know, soon after Emancipation, a lot of wooden buildings, grand wooden buildings were erected in what we call the Georgian style of architecture in Georgetown and in New Amsterdam. These colleges, by and large, were built by Christian churches. They were not only beautiful to look at, they were also functional and eventually they were very successful.
These colleges were the pioneers of secondary education and for more than a hundred years they set the standards of secondary education attainment, the highest standards that this country has ever known. These are six sister schools, six sister schools, all over a hundred years old. Queen’s College, established in 1844, is now a hundred and seventy-three years old. Saint Rose’s, established in 1847, celebrates its hundred and seventieth anniversary this year. Saint Stanislaus, established in 1866, celebrated its hundred a fiftieth anniversary last year. Bishops’ High School, established in 1870, is one hundred and forty-seven years old. Saint Joseph’s High School established in 1897, celebrated its one hundred and twentieth anniversary this year and Berbice High School, the youngest of the six sisters, established in 1916, celebrated its centenary last year.
Tradition can’t be contrived. You cannot fake experience. Is it any wonder that these six sister schools are still among the most senior and most successful secondary schools in Guyana? Tradition sustains the standards of Saint Stanislaus College. When I speak of standards, I speak of the bases that define how students behave. The bases that define how students behave is measured, especially the standards of scholarship, which you heard Ms. Merrill recount this afternoon. Tradition embodies the College’s values; values are the moral principles and the qualities that shape students’ character and promote camaraderie and esprit de corps, which is so evident among you today, not only among you but between you and your teachers.
Tradition reflects the College’s intellectual origins. Its Polish logo (as you see there) of crosses and horseshoes; I’m not sure many people outside of Saint Stanislaus would know what the cross and the horseshoes mean and of course the Latin motto- Aeterna non caduca. You heard one translation. Another translation is that ‘Eternity is not ephemeral’. That is, both the logo and the motto tell a story about the past, but as you all sang in your song; it also tells a story about the future, what 2030 is going to be like.
This College as you know, from your College history, was established as a catholic grammar school for boys on the 1st of May 1966 by the Society of Jesus, what we call the Jesuits, which is a Roman Catholic Religious Order but that Order had a strong tradition in education. The College’s headmasters between 1866 and 1980, except for a short period between 1869 and 1872, were all Roman Catholic priests and these priests inculcated in students the values and standards of academic excellence which we see on display today. As you know, the College found a permanent home on Brickdam on the 13th of November 1907, a date which coincides with the feast of Saint Stanislaus Kostka, the patron saint of youth who was a Jesuit in office and it is after St Stanislaus Kostka that this College was named.
Saint Stanislaus College like the other Saints, that is, you know your sisters, St Rose’s and St Joseph’s, Queen’s College, Bishop’s and Berbice High, started as sectarian institutions. Sectarian because they catered for specific religious groups or sects within society but they’re all secular, they’re all co-educational now, as you could see from Robert Fernandes’s dramatic poetry. In my mind, in so doing, they have become better examples of a socially cohesive culture than they were when they were first established. They remind us that in the absence of discrimination, we can construct a society that is built on harmonious relations. Saint Stanislaus has been the embodiment of standards that can break down class, break down social, break down ethnic differences and barriers in education. Education must unite the nation, not divide it. Education must not foster an elite culture in which only a few benefit, while the majority are excluded.
Education must be the basis of fairness and must provide opportunities for all, children from all over Guyana, from all walks of life, must have access to education. Education must equip students with the skills and standards necessary for success in a multicultural society. Education could achieve these goals only if it embraces certain standards, standards which are taught at home, but which are reinforced at school and which are practiced in society.
St Stanislaus College, though having a broad-based curriculum, has been building a reputation for Science. The College’s early administrators, from 1928, established laboratories and encouraged instruction in Science. Two new laboratories were situated on the ground floor of the Scalar Wing as early as 1952 and of course, the college enjoys a unique position in launching its agricultural project. The College also enjoys a very solid performance in Science and Technology subjects at the CSEC and CAPE levels as you heard from Ms. Merrill’s report.
The class of 2017 therefore, can contribute much to this country’s development. Cohorts of youth, like the class of 2017, can covert our country’s resources into riches; can convert our promises into performance and can convert our potential into production. This class of 2017 and succeeding classes I hope, will inherit the biggest, the most beautiful and the most bountiful country in the Caribbean Community -Guyana, the ‘green’ state; a country that is rich in natural resources, a country that is the habitat of some of the rarest flora and fauna on earth. Our ‘green’ state is one that will preserve our biodiversity, one that will protect our environment and one that will promote sustainable energy generation so we won’t have any more blackouts at the Cultural Centre.
The class of 2017 -gasoline could let you down but sunlight won’t let you down – the class of 2017 combined its human resource capital with the country’s natural capital to drive the development of this ‘green’ state. We need you. We need you graduands. We need biologists, botanists and zoologists to document and study our rich biodiversity. We need engineers to erect infrastructure in the hinterland and to install hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass energy plants. We need technologists, for our information and communication technologies to extend our communication services. We need geologists and gemmologists to provide services for our mining industries. We need agriculturists and chemists and physicists and physicians to promote food security and to enhance human health and wellbeing. All of these things we need and you are the ones who will fill these positions in Guyana.
Saint Stanislaus College accordingly, was one of the 13 schools which benefited from the Presidential Grant of one million dollars which I gave to each of the 13 secondary schools to improve their Science and Technology Laboratories, under the National Endowment for Science and Technology – N.E.S.T. I told your principals last June when I met them, that Science is not a sideshow. I’m serious about Science. Science is essential to our country’s development. I have been actively promoting Science and Technology and Mathematics, STEM education, and I encourage schools, students and teachers to pay more attention to the STEM subjects that will help young people to become innovative and to equip them with the skills they need to contribute to our country’s development. I said then, we do need arts and humanities, we do need modern languages but we also need Science and Technology and I ask that we give special encouragement to children who are gifted in Science and Technology. As far as I am concerned, I will continue to give special support to schools which provide the resources for children to enter the field of Science and Technology.
Ladies and gentlemen, graduands, Saint Stanislaus College’s motto suggests that education is for eternity. It is not a temporary expedience. Education must edify students, elevate values and enhance skills, but education can achieve these objectives only if it embraces certain social standards. Saint Stanislaus College has embraced those standards; it has been a provider of quality education for more than a hundred and fifty years. It does continue to maintain its proud traditions, it is proud of its values, it is proud of its standards and what I saw today makes me proud of you too.
I really am. Saint Stanislaus College has been one of the pillars of education excellence, and I would like to record my gratitude to the board and to the staff and to the alumni associations for helping to maintain such standards over the years. This afternoon, I take a special opportunity to recognise the outstanding contribution of your headmistress Ms. Paulette Merrill, and once again, I congratulate you all, the graduating class of 2017. You have been grounded in the College’s traditions and I wish you all a successful future. You’ve already been charged and I will only add to that charge by urging you to be faithful to the College’s values and standards. I urge you to become exemplars of the motto Aeterna non caduca and I wish you every happiness and success in your life.
May God bless you all!