Georgetown, Guyana – (July 15, 2019) President David Granger, today, commissioned a $186M dormitory for tertiary hinterland students. The dormitory is located in Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, and will accommodate 120 students from across the country who are pursuing tertiary education in Georgetown.

“Government is not content to await the successful outcome of its long-term educational policies. It also is making short-term interventions. The establishment of this tertiary education dormitory attests to Government’s commitment to improving educational opportunities for hinterland students. It reflects our intention to ensure a more equal society by reducing the disparities between the hinterland and coastland through education,” President Granger said at the commissioning ceremony.

Accommodation for students are being provided across the country, with dormitories having been constructed at 19 locations in nine regions. These dormitories allow more hinterland students to benefit from educational services, he noted.

“We want to create a more equal society,” the President said. Increased efforts are being made to ensure that hinterland residents can access public services – birth, business and death registration; public education; public health; public information; public infrastructure; public telecommunication; public security and social security – as citizens on the coastland.

“Government, through the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs has done well to make this facility available. It will ensure a more conducive environment for hinterland students attending the University of Guyana and other tertiary institutions,” President Granger said.

President Granger said education is the surest and swiftest way to reduce inequality while noting that the gap between the hinterland and coastland regions remains evident.

“It is the surest path to empowering and lifting persons out of poverty and marginalization. I noted, in my address at the launch of the Guyana Youth Corps on 28th March 2019, that education becomes a powerful equalizer when opportunities for quality education and training are accessible by the entire population. The country has to reduce the disparities in education between the coastland the hinterland if it is to become a more equal society. Education is single most important factor likely to have the greatest impact on hinterland development. National educational policy aims at closing the educational gap between the hinterland and the coastland,” he said.

The President said the reduction of the gap between hinterland and coastland is necessary to reduce poverty and reverse hinterland unemployment and underdevelopment; to reduce hinterland migration; ensure a more inclusive and cohesive nation. Education he said, is an entitlement which can be realised only if every child has access at the primary and secondary levels; attends school and completes his or her schooling.

Guyana’s education policy emphasizes access, attendance and attainment. This means that every child must be assured of access to school; must be enabled to attend school and be equipped with the knowledge to attain a satisfactory standard of education.

“The opening of this dormitory adds a fourth ‘A’ – accommodation. Access to education means that sufficient institutions of learning must be available and equipped to impart quality education to everyone, including the visually- and physically- challenged. Access to education is being improved through the expansion and improvement of educational infrastructure. More than 100 schools, spread across our ten administrative regions, have been built, renovated and upgraded over the past four years,” he asserted.

Hinterland students have benefitted from learning resource centres at Aishalton, Annai, Bartica, Kato, Lethem and Mabaruma, Monkey Mountain, Paramakatoi, Kamarang, Waramadong and Wauna while monies have been budgeted to commence work on learning resource centres at Mahdia and Port Kaituma this year.

The Head of State said that access to education for hinterland students is being facilitated through the provision of government-supported scholarships which provide opportunities for hinterland students to enjoy secondary and tertiary education. The Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs has increased the number of hinterland scholarships from 120 in 2014 to 186 in 2018. Hinterland students, also, have been among the beneficiaries of the 1,599 tertiary-level scholarships offered by the Department of the Public Service since 2015.

“Attendance at school is equally important. Government’s policy is to ensure that every child attends school and stays in school. We have made progress in ensuring that our children attend and stay in school with the launch – exactly four years ago on 15th July 2015 – of the Public Education Transportation Service (PETS) which started as the 3Bs project. Twenty-nine buses, ten boats and more than 1,400 bicycles have been distributed so far under PETS to make it easier for children to attend school. School attendance is being boosted by the provision of transportation,” the President said.

The measures implemented to improve school attendance have resulted in a decline in hinterland school dropouts, President Granger said. According to him, an average of 10 primary school students per week dropped out from hinterland schools in 2014; this has declined to an average of three persons in 2017. An average of 17 secondary school students dropped out weekly from hinterland schools in 2014; this has declined to an average of five per week in 2017.

While Government is making strident steps in the education sector, President Granger said he looks forward to the day when every regional capital town – Anna Regina, Bartica, Lethem, Mabaruma and Mahdia – will establish a first-class college to enable hinterland students to enjoy the best secondary and, later, tertiary education within their communities.

Education is being repositioned

“That day will come. Four years ago, our education system was afflicted with many challenges – falling exam results, high drop-out rates, overcrowding and decrepit infrastructure. Our children were leaving education without the necessary skills to find a job. Education is been repositioned. Education is now moving on the correct path. It is being accorded the highest priority. The best is yet to come. Government’s plan for education, over the next five years, will secure a better future for all Guyana,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, said the Government is working to ensure that the gaps in education between the hinterland and the coastland are bridged. This project, he said, is therefore one of the many steps that Government has taken to ensure that access to education is not hindered for those who seek it.

Minister of Education, Dr. Nicolette Henry said the project aims to create opportunities and reduce inequality for thousands of families in the hinterland.

“This edifice is in alignment of the Government’s vision of making education more accessible and affable to disadvantaged, vulnerable and traditionally marginalised groups. We know the construction of this tertiary dormitory is not to be taken lightly as this will provide tremendous opportunities for those students whose geographic location limits their dreams of pursuing higher education. This Government is committed to educating all of our children, not just some. We believe in a go0od life for all and we have seen how education has worked to develop the world,” she said.

Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mrs. Valerie Garrido-Lowe, said previously students pursuing tertiary education in Georgetown endured many challenges while living with guardians and host families. Many were forced to pay $25,000 to $45,000 per month to rent small spaces that were most times inadequate.

“While we cannot promise accommodation for all at this time, we can certainly assure 120 students would be able to pursue university and other tertiary education in Georgetown. This will be a continuous cycle that will positively impact 115 indigenous communities countrywide. There is no doubt that our hinterland youth are bursting with potential and talents,” she said.

The facility boasts modern amenities including individual lavatories in apartments, dining halls, an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hub and e-library. Sixty-four male and 56 female students will be housed in the dormitory.

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