Georgetown, Guyana – (August 6, 2019) President David Granger, this morning, said Forbes Burnham, Guyana’s first Prime Minister and Executive President and founder of the People’s National Congress, will forever be remembered for his peerless contribution to national development, particularly in the field of education.
The Head of State was at the time speaking at the commemoration of the 34th death anniversary of the former President at the Mausoleum, Place of Heroes, Botanical Gardens.
President Granger said Mr. Burnham was born in a colonial society in which schools were controlled largely by the churches and many were overcrowded and under-equipped, noting that he [Burnham] set about the task of laying the foundation for the evolvement of an education nation after being elected as the first Minister of Education in British Guiana in the short-lived popular administration of 1953 and later, as Premier.
“He believed that public education was the cornerstone of social justice. Forbes Burnham announced, in a broadcast to the nation: “Education is the cornerstone of equality and one of the chief instruments for the abolition of snobbery and the removal of discrimination.” He aspired to establish an educational system in which rural and hinterland schools would be as efficient as those on the coastland. He believed that if the nation was to improve its citizens’ quality of life, it had to provide them with a high quality of education. Forbes Burnham’s first decade in office – 1964-74 – was one of tremendous transformation of the public education system, making it more resilient and relevant to the national situation at the time and to our people’s aspirations for the future,” the President said.
The Head of State noted that the former President reinforced the bases of universal primary and secondary education and moved tertiary education from being the privilege of an élite few to an entitlement for everyone. He augmented overall attendance and school enrolment and built new primary and secondary schools including the first residential schools for Indigenous children at St. Ignatius in the Rupununi and Mabaruma in the Barima-Waini, the President said.
“He built modern multilateral schools on a regional basis –in the Pomeroon-Supenaam at Anna Regina, Demerara-Mahaica, Mahaica-Berbice, East Berbice-Corentyne at New Amsterdam and Upper Demerara-Berbice regions and Georgetown. They still stand today as monuments and testimony to his commitment to regional public education. He built community high schools and technical institutes, opened the first campus of the University of Guyana and the Cyril Potter College of Education at Turkeyen – all with the aim of providing the best education for the post-Independence generation. Forbes Burnham gave effect to free public education by expanding opportunities for all. He entrenched free education as an entitlement in Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” President Granger said.
Minister of Social Cohesion and Vice Chair of the PNC, Dr. George Norton said the former President was a political icon, whose work continues to inspire generations and motivates the Government to work tirelessly to build a better nation.
“He was a brilliant man, who pioneered a free system of education from Nursery to University, a futuristic thinker who promoted sustainable development and self-sufficiency long before the global fight towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) began. Our leader was a man of honour, integrity and a high degree of discipline,” he said.
The event was attended by members of the Burnham family, former Prime Minister Hamilton Green, Ministers of the Government and Regional representatives.