Georgetown, Guyana – (September 23, 2019): President David Granger, this morning, attended the 178th anniversary celebration of Queenstown Village, Essequibo Coast, where he emphasised that the school is a pillar of the village.
“Education is essential to development. It is the one true path to development at the national, regional, neighbourhood and village levels,” the Head of State said, before adding that education has helped the village to produce outstanding sons and daughters.
Queenstown Village has produced civil servants, economists, engineers, soldiers, teachers, tradesmen.
The President said, “Education was one of the pillars upon which Queenstown was established. The others are the family, the farm, or workplace and the church. If one of these pillars fails, the village would fall.”
Queenstown Village was in the vanguard of the ‘Great Village Movement’ which began in the first decade after Emancipation.
“Education was viewed as a means of securing economic emancipation- of escaping exploitation of the plantation and to provide a better future for their children. Education unlocked economic opportunities helped many to escape the clutches of inter-generational poverty,” the President said.
President Granger said education must be strengthened if Queenstown Village is to progress. Education, he said, will ensure that children do not have to live in poverty, as it is the greatest gift which we can bequeath to the nation’s children.
The President said too that education is the responsibility of the family, the school and the village, which must ensure that children are educated as this is the most important thing apart from the family.
Education, he said, helps to produce a corps of skilled persons to boost village development through the creation of cottage, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and jobs for school graduates.
“It is the responsibility of the villages to ensure that the best education is accorded to their children. The village has a vital role in education. Villages must be restored to a central place in education,” President Granger emphasised, before referencing an old African saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.”
The President pointed to the Government’s education policy, ‘Every Child in School’ (ECIS).
“We want to ensure that every child is literate, numerate and graduates from school as an ‘A’ student. ‘A’ for access to education, ‘A’ for attendance and ‘A’ for attainment,” he said.
“I would like to see a school in every village so that children do not have to travel long distances. Attendance at school is equally important. Government’s policy is to ensure that every child attends school and stays in school,” the President said.
The Head of State said too that Government is making progress in ensuring that the nation’s children attend and stay in school with the launch of the Public Education Transportation Service (PETS) initiative. There are 29 buses, 10 boats and more than 4,000 bicycles, which have been distributed so far under PETS, to make it easier for children to attend school.
“We want every child to graduate from school with the knowledge, skills and values which would allow him or her to gain employment,” he said, urging that villages must become the drivers of this policy.
President Granger advised the villagers to assume the responsibility of ensuring that every child has access to, attends and stays in school. Education, he said, is being repositioned.
Government has spent more than $170B on the education sector over the past four years. This year, Government is spending $52.2B, which is 15.6 per cent more than last year. The Head of State, referenced the ‘Decade of Development’ which will be launched next year.
Throughout this Decade, the President said, emphasis will be placed on education. He told the residents of Queenstown Village and neighbouring communities that every citizen has a right to free education. Free education, he said, is a constitutional entitlement.
President Granger said too that Government will expand the provision of buses, boats and bicycles to reduce the financial burden on parents as well as expand the school feeding programme to encourage school attendance and improve performance. The President said that emphasis must be placed on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Meanwhile, the President noted that Queenstown is considered the oldest village on the Essequibo Coast, having been purchased by freed Africans who pooled their resources to acquire former plantations. The Africans then converted these plantations into communal or propriety villages or a mixture of both. The village was named after Queen Victoria on the 25th September 1841.
The President said Queenstown was a pacesetter as it was a pioneer of local government and a hub of economic enterprise, which provided a range of public services. “Queenstown has never been helpless. It has helped itself. It has demonstrated the capacity for self-organisation, throughout its 178 years. This capacity is exemplified by the Queenstown Development Association in 1991,” he said.
The President said vibrant village economies are essential to the survival of the country as a whole and have to be resuscitated. Additionally, he noted that Queenstown has been transformed over the past 178 years. It is still predominantly an African village but it now has a multicultural character. The village has churches, a mandir and a masjid, catering for Christians, Hindus and Muslims. “Queenstown must continue to utilise its capacity for self-organisation to boost its development. It must build on past achievement to ensure future progress,” the President stated.
The President in congratulating Queenstown Village and the Queenstown Development Association for its work, said village economies must flourish through the establishment of micro and medium-scale enterprises to generate industries and business, which will provide employment, by growing food again, producing goods and providing services again. Village lands must bloom again by being placed under cultivation, he stressed.
President Granger also noted that village democracy must flourish through their regular local government elections and the selection of local leaders, who care for their communities and who represent their constituencies. “Villages cultural life must be revived. Villages must have happy homes, happy families and happy neighbours. Villages,” he said, “must be socially cohesive units promoting inter-ethnic harmony”. Meanwhile, the Head of State committed to assisting the Aberdeen-Zorg-en-Vlygt Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) with a trailer.