April 27, 2017

The last ship

The SS Ganges was the last ship to bring Indian indentured labourers to British Guiana. It arrived in Georgetown on April 18, 1917 with 437 men, women and children destined for various plantations.

The ship had left India just four days before the Abolition Act was signed in the Indian Parliament on March 12, 1917. After sailing from Calcutta with 124 persons, or just over a third of the labour contingent, it then docked in Madras to pick up the rest of the indentured workers before setting sail for the Caribbean.

Among the last arrivals there were 39 children, 22 of whom were boys; and of the adults, there were 268 men and 130 women.

The largest contingent of 218 (including their children) was contracted to 11 Demerara plantations stretching from Cane Grove to De Kinderen. The largest batch – 28 persons — went to work at Non Pareil; and just two persons, most likely a married couple, were contracted to Diamond Estate.

Nine Berbice plantations received 150 of the last arrivals, with the majority — a group of 26 — being contracted to the Port Mourant Estate; and 69 of the labourers were assigned to four estates in Essequibo.

The SS Ganges sailed on to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, where 389 adults and 32 children disembarked. With this final stop, the transportation of Indian indentured labourers to the British colonies ceased.

Interestingly, this last group of labourers served a shortened period of indentureship. An Act in the British Parliament brought the scheme to an official end, and all indenture contracts were cancelled on January 1, 1920.

However, the scheme’s contractual nature had always meant that each labourer had a personal contract to complete, after which their own indentureship would have come to an end.

By 1917, the country’s population had comprised 42% Indians. That percentage rose to as high as 51% before undergoing a steady decline over the past 50 years to drop to the 1917 census figure again.

The reasons for this decline are varied, but have much to do with the cultural and political hostility faced by the Indian population; hostility which erupted into episodes of ethnic violence over those 50 years. Within the Caribbean region, Indians comprise about 20% of the population, and this minority status gives impetus to the regional marginalisation of this community.

Indians in the Caribbean, as the late Professor Rex Nettleford of UWI once stated, had to “learn to be West Indian”. Though he later corrected his remark to be more politically correct vis-`a-vis Caribbean diversity, his utterance does align closely to the truth of the region’s policy towards race and cultural relations pertaining to its Indian populations.

In the islands with smaller groups of Indians, like Jamaica, the Indian presence has largely been assimilated, reflecting Nettleford’s experience; but in Guyana and Trinidad, Indians, as large populations, continue the struggle for recognition and for their cultural and human rights.

Our presence in Guyana is being made invisible even by the reluctance of successive governments to digitise and preserve the Indian immigration and indentureship records, which languish and steadily deteriorate in the National Archives. Of the Indian diaspora communities, Guyana is the only one where this preservation project attracts little or no state support.

Marking the end of the indentureship programme is bittersweet. While many of the descendants of our fore-parents have made good lives here and in North America, the facts of the poverty and famine in India that drove them to board ships to seek a better life, and the facts of the brutality and hardships they faced on the sugar plantations can never be glossed over.

And that history is not yet over, as sugar estates face closure and the consequent loss of the traditional estate work on which many still depend. While some closures might be justified in a changed global economy, the Granger Administration’s lack of concern about the future of the retrenched workers is a grim reminder of the ruthlessness of the colonial era.

Except for the First Nations, we are all here because of sugar, and when the SS Whitby dropped anchor off Plantation Highbury on the Berbice River on May 5, 1838, it was an historic occasion. The labourers who stepped off that ship stepped into history. They were not only the first Indians to arrive in British Guiana, but were the first to arrive in the Western world.

Since President David Granger has declared days of special observances for the arrival of the Chinese and Portuguese to Guyana, perhaps he would now correct the official name of the May 5th holiday and give it its rightful title of “Indian Arrival Day”.

‘Educational Exchanges’ Russian Government provides invaluable opportunities for Guyanese

Every year since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Guyana in 1970, the Russian Government provides scholarships to Guyanese for studies in Russia.

More than 100 Guyanese, including doctors, engineers, politicians and diplomats, have graduated from the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN).

Dr. Shivasram Itwaru

Dr. Shivasram Itwaru

In 2016, two Guyanese received Russian Government scholarship to study medicine in RUDN. This year another two scholarships were granted – one focused on oil and gas studies, a prospective Guyanese industrial field.

The Ministry of Natural Resources of Guyana will designate a group of Guyanese students for training as oil and gas technicians in Russia as agreed during the 1st Meeting of the Working Group in the Field of Geology and Mining in October 2016 in Moscow.

The application for scholarship to study linguistics in Russia for 2017/2018 academic year can be made at Russia study website until May 1, 2017.

Russia is famous for its quality education and offers a wide range of technical and humanitarian studies. Twenty-four Russian Universities, including Moscow State University, are within 2016 Times Higher Education top ranking list. The detailed guide on Russian Universities is available online at www.znanie.info.

The Russian Embassy in Guyana believes that the friendly relations Russia and Guyana have been enjoying for decades will continue to develop through educational exchanges.

Below Dr. Shivasram Itwaru, a doctor who is benefiting from the scholarship programme, comments on his recent experience at Moscow University.

“I am Dr. Shivasram Itwaru, a medical doctor attached to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and currently studying in Russia. I never thought I would be ever studying in Russia as the country seemed to be a very distant place. Nevertheless, I’m here in beautiful Russia. I’m very happy to be at RUDN pursuing a Residency in Cardiology/Internal Medicine.

I always supposed that Russia was a gloomy place, but this turned out to be wrong. Russia is a very lively and delightful place. It has a lot of different memorials, beautiful parks and it is definitely a place where anyone could find what he/she likes. Currently I live in Moscow on campus at RUDN. The University is very huge and scenic. The academic programs offered are demanding and challenging, thus students have to spend lots of time reading, which is a usual scene across campus, at study halls, library, in the park, and other places.

At RUDN there are students from more than 150 countries, as such you are given the wonderful opportunity to interact and learn not only about Russia, but other countries as well.

I have not been that long in Russia, however I have already visited several places. Firstly, the famous Red Square is mesmerizing. It has lots of historic buildings, beautiful cathedral, old castle wall and much more. This usually attracts the attention of many tourists. My visit to the well-known Gorky Park and Sokolniki Park was breath-taking. The parks cover large areas where you can be at peace with nature.

It must be mentioned that the Russian people are very affable and polite, which definitely makes you feel at home in Russia. I have been to a lot of places across the world and I am happy to say that Russia is one of the best experiences I ever had.

Thanks to the Russian people and the Government for affording me this experience and the opportunity to study here.” (Press release from Russian Embassy in Guyana)

 

There is need to reward excellence in public service

Dear Editor,

As we continue to embrace our national strategy towards a sustainable economy with a focus on ecotourism, we must also continue to develop our reward systems for commitment and excellence in public service.

For time spent providing exemplary work as a teacher, nurse or doctor, Police Officer, soldier, fireman/firewoman, or in other areas within Government regardless of party affiliation, workers should be given the opportunity to obtain subsidised housing and access to preferential financing rates. This will attract more candidates to these crucial roles in our society and help ease the heaviest financial burden our citizens undertake, while at the same time fostering economic growth in the housing sector. Also, in the area of teaching, the awarding of tenure for proven success in public schools will help retain top talent and encourage entry into the profession.

Continued investment in our infrastructure, specifically in the maintenance and upkeep of our courts, police stations, army bases, schools, hospitals and fire stations should continue to be a top priority in the area of ongoing Government investments and expenses.

It is essential that our key institutions:

reflect the level of quality that our fellow Guyanese would enjoy being a part of foster confidence in the general public and visiting tourists stay competitive versus other tourist destinations

Given the size of our Government, the additional growth this investment will spur in the construction sector should not be overlooked. As the nation grows, we must not forsake that which forms the foundation that allows us to support our growth.

Working closely on an agreed agenda with the unions and institutions representing our public servants is a must for any government to be successful in designing enhancements in the worker benefits provided to Government workers. The above examples of benefits that could be additionally provided are at a very low cost to the Government given the design of the benefits package. The mentioned investment in the upkeep of the infrastructure of these cornerstone institutions in our nation should be viewed as both necessary and beneficial by administrations focused on economic growth. To govern is to provide a service to those who have empowered you to do so, and public servants make it possible for any government to serve its people well.

Best regards,

Jamil Changlee

 

GuySuCo is not getting out of sugar

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) wishes to respond to Dr Leslie Ramsammy’s letter titled Pace of sugar industry’s closure is accelerating.

Firstly, the Corporation is disappointed that Dr Ramsammy would write a 798-word letter to the Editor without even bothering to verify that the information therein is accurate. At his level, we find that to be unacceptable. GuySuCo is a phone call away; this is, if Dr Ramsammy is serious about exercising more prudence in his communication on the Corporation.

Nonetheless, the Corporation will repeat for the umpteenth time: GUYSUCO IS NOT GETTING OUT OF SUGAR! Re-organising does not mean ‘getting out of sugar’.

Dr Ramsammy stated that “Wales Estate is closed. The threat of closure in June 2015 has become a reality and 1700 workers and their families are in a struggle for survival”. Dr Ramsammy would be relieved to learn that a key challenge for the Corporation currently is not finding jobs for its employees, but rather convincing them that continued employment is the best option for them, their families and communities.

What he would find even more interesting is that the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has been encouraging hundreds of employees from Wales Estate, specifically the cane harvesters and cane transport operators, to demand termination of their services for a one-off payment of severance, even though their services are needed to keep the doors of the Uitvlugt Estate open.

In another instance, the very union is encouraging the planters from the East Demerara Estate to refuse to accept work as harvesters, despite the fact that their estate is harvesting its First Crop 2017, and has a very low harvesters’ attendance rate of 59%; and therefore runs the risk of not achieving its target.

With regard to the statement that the Providence cultivation is being closed, the fact is that harvesting is ongoing and the “hundreds of persons employed as cane cutters at Providence have been unemployed since the first crop of 2016”, as Dr Ramsammy claims, and they are actually engaged in harvesting for the Rose Hall Estate.

With regard to closing Skeldon Estate, it is unfortunate that the co-generation plant was deemed as unsafe to operate, based on advice from Skeldon Energy Inc. (SEI). As a result, the first crop at that estate has been suspended. However, this situation, like other aspects in Dr Ramsammy’s missive, has been twisted for the sole purpose of justifying his claim that the sugar industry is closing down, so as to create unnecessary panic and anxiety.

Dr Ramsammy further stated that “the downgrading of sugar has already left a huge vacuum in the country’s foreign currency earnings”. Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”, or, “No problem can be solved with the same consciousness that created them”. It would therefore be highly illogical for Dr Ramsammy to expect that things would remain the same but get better. The problems of GuySuCo cannot be solved by using the same thinking or consciousness that created them; so, no doubt, there will be shifts as we adjust to the ‘new normal’.

The sugar industry has to be reorganized, GuySuCo has to be re-engineered. There is no question about that if it is to become, and remain, a competitor in the regional and global sugar industries. The first thing that needs to be done for the survival of the industry — whether in the short or medium term — is that productivity needs to be increased; and in the final analysis, the union, workers, the management of the industry and other stakeholders need to work together. Workers need to embrace the programme for reorganizing the Corporation and ensuring its transformation into a resilient entity.

We urge Dr Ramsammy to leave the company of naysayers, get on board and become a part of the One GuySuCo Team; the Corporation is forging ahead, and will evolve as the ‘New GuySuCo’.

Yours faithfully,

Audreyanna Thomas, Senior Communications Officer

Need for radical changes in the Cabinet

Dear Editor,

Please publish this letter as an appeal to His Excellency, President David Granger, to review the performance and conduct of some ministers of Government, and take appropriate actions to engender national confidence in the economy and security of the people and nation. The buck stops with you, Mr President, as the Executive Leader of Guyana.

Citizens are aware of the widespread perception and belief that the situation in Guyana is deteriorating. This is causing much anguish for the people, who look for redress through active and timely interventions. There is also the widespread perception and belief that the performance of some ministers is at best third rate and mediocre. This must be a source of grave embarrassment to you, as President.

The conduct, behaviour, and performance of some ministers leave much to be desired.

One can point to several recent examples in words and actions of some ministers, including the following: attacks and intimidation of the Judiciary, and direct attacks on judges; financial management of the economy relating to actions by the Ministry of Finance; rising crime rates, which are engendering fear and anxiety for the security of citizens and the business community, relating to actions/inactions by the Ministry of Public Security; the unsatisfactory and wasteful expenditure in the health sector under the Ministry of Public Health; and the unsatisfactory situation in the agriculture sector under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Some ministers appear not to understand their constitutional functions, and they micro-manage and get involved in management/administration of operational matters, instead of concentrating on their policy direction role. Article 115 of the Constitution of Guyana defines the responsibilities and functions of ministers and permanent secretaries, the accounting heads of ministries.

The view is widespread that there should be radical changes in the Cabinet – a cabinet reshuffle, dropping some ministers and bringing in some high-level technocratic skills into the Cabinet and Government.

Yours faithfully,

Joshua Singh

 

What land issues and uncertainties is the Govt talking about?

Dear Editor,

The history of Guyana records that the Amerindians were the first people here, in what is now known as Guyana. No Commission of Inquiry can change that fact.

The recent establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by President David Granger to “examine and make recommendations on resolving issues and uncertainties surrounding the individual, joint or communal ownership of lands along with Amerindian Land Titling issues” has resulted in a vehement and bitter outcry among our Indigenous people, including their elected village councils, indigenous groups, the National Toshaos Council, and supporters and members of the People’s Progressive Party.

A majority of the Guyanese population view the establishment of this Commission as both a transgression of the land rights and “an expression of gross disrespect for the Amerindian people of Guyana” — whose fast growing population, numbering over 70,000 living in over 200 villages/communities — accounts for almost 10% of Guyana’s population.

What land issues and uncertainties is the Government talking about? The only issues and uncertainties would be the Government’s position with respect to moving the land titling, land extension and demarcation processes forward.

May I remind the Government that the rights of our Amerindian people to their traditional lands and resources are clearly set out in the Constitution of Guyana and in the Amerindian Act of 2006?

May I also draw attention to the fact that the Amerindian Village Councils, the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission, and the National Toshaos Council, elected bodies, are empowered to promote and protect these interests and rights?

In fact, the Constitution specifically makes provision for our Amerindian people, so that while the issue of reparations and repatriation of African lands is important, these are two distinctly separate issues that must be addressed separately.

Is the CoI a Trojan Horse plan and nefarious attempt to usurp the role and functions of these constitutionally established bodies which deal, inter alia, with Amerindian land rights? How disrespectful can we become?

The idea that Amerindians should be recognised as owners of their land began to gain momentum in the years just preceding our country’s independence, on May 26th, 1966, thanks primarily to the advocacy of Guyana’s first Amerindian Parliamentarian, Mr Stephen Campbell, and leader of the People’s Progressive Party, Dr Cheddi Jagan. Our history records that there was a hiatus in terms of the political effort of the Government of the 1964 to 1992 epoch to move this process forward.

Our Amerindian people did not have to wait until 2017 for an ill-informed and lethargic APNU/AFC Government to set up a Commission of Enquiry to investigate what is already known with respect to Amerindian lands and land rights. Indeed, while the PPP/C Government worked with the Amerindian leaders and the Amerindian people to provide improved social services and physical infrastructure, and so create for them wider choices in respect of goods and services available to them, we did through a consultative process; and by providing the required resources, enact Legislation, formulate policies and programmes, and facilitate the required activities to give recognition and protection to the rights of our Amerindian people, including their rights to the lands they own and occupy.

When the PPP/C demitted office in May 2015, some 98 Amerindian villages had received grants of title to their lands, and the process of consultation with additional communities that had met the qualifying requirements for titling was a work in progress in order to ensure that legislative and procedural requirements were being met; and the villagers understood and were satisfied with the process.

This is what the APNU/AFC Coalition Government should be pursuing with the respective village councils, the National Toshaos Council Executive and the Indigenous People’s Commission; not setting up another CoI so as to reward cronies.

While in some countries Amerindian people have only rights of use of the land, in Guyana they own the land. No Commission of Inquiry can change that fact.

Sincerely,

Norman Whittaker

Guyana prepared to counter U.S. nixing of HIV funding – Dr Cummings

The United States (US) has announced that it would cease pumping money into the fight against HIV/AIDS in Caribbean countries, less than a month after pulling funding from the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF).

Guyana is one country which benefited from the US President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the US $15 billion initiative to combat global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria primarily in 15 HIV Caribbean countries hard hit by these scourges. This fund has been in existence since 2003, but now directors of America’s global fund to fight AIDS around the world say they can no longer justify supporting the upper middle-income countries of the Caribbean, and have ordered fund terminations from as early as this year.

Guyana’s status

However, junior Minister in the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Dr Karen Cummings, told this newspaper that Guyana is safe in this regard, as Government has been putting contingencies in place for such an occurrence, because it has been expected.

“We have been putting systems in place to phase it in gradually as we strive to embark on our universal coverage in terms of our 90/90 plan — that of seeking to ensure that 90 per cent of the persons who are HIV positive are tested, and those who are tested are treated, and those treated have the viral suppression as well.”

She said the MoPH is still in the program, and is “trying to scale up”. “I would say that we have it under control in the sense that there is funding. We are phasing it in, and we continue to have retroviral to meet the demands of those who are HIV positive,” she explained. “We are still working with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), and the National AIDS Program Secretariat (NAPS) to assist us in this regard. So we have it under control. We also have global funds for HIV, TB and malaria,” she told Guyana Times International.

The Bahamas, which at just over 3% has the highest population prevalence of HIV in the English-speaking Caribbean, will have its funding cut entirely in September 2017, followed by Barbados in 2018. Meanwhile, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago will have their funding slashed to historic lows for two years, before their allocations end in 2019.

Of the middle-income Caribbean countries, only Jamaica will be spared from cuts, but under strict conditions. Far fewer people living with HIV in Jamaica receive treatment than in the other upper-middle income Caribbean countries, and estimates are that more than 3 in 10 Jamaican men who have sex with men are HIV positive. To address this, PEPFAR says, it will move 67-75 per cent of its Caribbean regional budget to the island between 2017 and 2019. In exchange, Jamaica will have to meet ambitious targets to curb its epidemic, or PEPFAR will leave the English-speaking Caribbean region entirely, including the member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

In the Caribbean, PEPFAR contributes to the cost of HIV prevention programmes; drug procurement; and the treatment, care and psychosocial support of people living with HIV and AIDS. The Fund also works with community organisations to target HIV prevention and care for LGBT people and commercial sex workers who are on the periphery of direct government programmes.

PEPFAR’s interventions are further supported by health experts at US diplomatic missions, where some vacant posts have already been frozen as a result of the claw back.

PEPFAR’s moves now increase the burden on regional governments to bring their HIV/AIDS epidemics under control, even as public finances in several of the affected countries have already been stretched. With the exception of Haiti, which will retain its PEPFAR funding entirely, a complete regional pullout would leave a US$9 million gap in financing for the Caribbean’s response to HIV and AIDS, based on PEPFAR’s 2014/15 expenditure levels.

Despite some progress, the picture of the Caribbean’s HIV/AIDS response is mixed. Prevention messages that focus on abstinence and condom use are mainstays of national health campaigns, and costly interventions such as drug prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection are off the radar for most. Moralistic views and discrimination against the LGBT community are effective barriers to healthcare, and the prevalence of HIV among these marginalised groups can often run times higher than in the general population.

Strong progress and adoption of international best practices — such as the Barbados decision to treat all people living with HIV, regardless of the stage of their disease — have been largely supported by PEPFAR funds. Central governments will now have limited time to ensure sustainability of these gains, and to finance gaps after the departure of US aid.

While PEPFAR’s directors made no explicit link between their decisions and President Trump’s dictates to cut America’s levels of foreign aid, the repeal of PEPFAR’s reach in the Caribbean follows the administration’s decision to cut funding to the United Nations Food and Population Fund, as well as its removal of federal dollars from Planned Parenthood and other international development programmes.

The judiciary is supposed to be an independent arm of the State

Dear Editor,

It is ironic that the conduct of the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs in Justice Holder’s Court took place during the hearing of the suspension of the holder of an independent constitutional office by the President acting on the advice of his next in command, Prime Minister Moses Nagamoottoo.

It is public knowledge that the President allegedly called in Carvil Duncan, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, a member of the Judicial Service Commission and the Police Service Commission. He admitted demanding his resignation from these commissions, asserting at the same time that he did not want blood spilled upon his carpet.

It is unknown if Justice Holder’s Court is fitted with carpet but the accusations/complaints made by him and the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs seems to have left one of them with a bloodied nose.

Seeking the intervention of the President has certainly exposed the Judiciary as a whole as a cowering arm of the State in violation of the concept of the separation of powers.

The judiciary is supposed to be an independent arm of the State and the suspension of an office Holder, i.e. Duncan, may explain justly the action of the Chancellor (ag). She may be excused for thinking that if he can be suspended she can suffer the same fate if the judges were to sanction the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.

 

Sincerely,

Dr Roger Luncheon

 

A guideline for Minister Gaskin

Dear Editor,

The recent article “No guidelines in place to avoid abuse – Gaskin” illustrates a lot of the problems that the Coalition Government has gotten itself and Guyana into with the fantasies it promulgated to the public about billions of dollars of corruption in the way Guyana had been grown and developed and jobs created during the twenty-three years of PPP/C in office.

Minister Gaskin recognizes an important role for “Public-Private-Partnerships” but laments that there are no guidelines to avoid abuse.

Were it not for he and his Government’s propaganda abuse of the PPP/C Administration, he might have recognized guidelines, concerns and achievements in three P-P-P projects: the fully completed Berbice River Bridge, the not fully complete Marriott Hotel, and the ready-to-go Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project which they vetoed.

If the Minister and his colleagues were to give themselves to earnest study, rather than having their imaginations run amok in fantasies of corruption, they could learn a lot, including the important essential role of the much aligned Mr W. Brassington and PU/NICIL in the growth and development which we managed to achieve.

PU/NICIL continually sought to find ways to put together old, unused, no longer profitable Government-owned properties and other resources (including people -released past employees) with other non-government resources − money, new technologies and capabilities, expert and experienced persons, markets — to create a new enterprise that has a great likelihood to pay its way.

Yes, not everything turns out right/successful. Indeed, I read that it would be a good score when 10 out of every 100 projects, initially earnestly pursued, studied, reappraised, and reconsidered in stages in greater and greater depth to eventual implementation, were to be successful.

Yes, knowledge of what we should know is never complete. We try to minimize personal judgments. In any case, no one knows how things would be in the future.

Minister Gaskin and his colleagues have tied their own hands in their fantasy charges of billions of dollars of annual corruption against us, PPP/C. There is an old Guyanese proverb that says, “Little pig ask mama pig how come she mouth so long, and mama pig replied, ‘You will find out’.”

Minster Gaskin and his colleagues are finding out that they could get little done without opening themselves to the same fantasy charges with which they have been smearing us. They have paralyzed themselves, the private sector – local, diaspora and foreign, and our economy. It is for them to free themselves and our economy, and in doing so, ensure that there are no actions that present real charges of corruption. They have not been doing so well.

Yours truly,

Samuel A A Hinds

Former Prime Minister and Former President

Education is now significantly more expensive and harder to access in Guyana

Dear Editor,

I am appalled to learn that the tuition fees for University of Guyana (UG) students will increase by 35 per cent over the coming three years. This is yet another assault on education. Since the beginning of the Governments’ term, there has been an unrelenting attack on education in Guyana. In less than two years, education is now significantly more expensive and harder to access. This goes against the utterances of promotion of education and, instead, aims at reducing the country’s already limited human capital.

This assault has its genesis upon the coalition Government’s ascent to public office, when the initiative which provided cash grants for student across the country were eliminated. Through the elimination of this subsidy, the Government has increased the burdens on parents and this has possibly forced some to drop out of school.

Unlike the Ministers of Government who earn exorbitantly and gave themselves a humungous increase, ten thousand dollars mean a lot for many families in the country. If the Government was aware of the reality, they would understand.

After the cash grants were discontinued, the next and most vicious assault to date came in the form of VAT on education .

This is the assault that has consumed the news since the petty bourgeoisie was most affected. The middle class generally gets what it wants but if the middle class had been as affected by the loss of the cash grants as the lower classes were, the outcome would have been significantly different. However, it’s not just middle class people that are affected. Many families in Guyana make significant effort for their children to receive a better education, as highlighted by a private school operator; some students arrive in BMWs while many others arrive on foot.

Then came the latest attack on education, a 35 per cent fee raise on UG over the coming three years. As it stands, many students already find it difficult to amass the current tuition fee. The 35 per cent increase will surely cripple them. There are many students at UG who are from rural areas in the country. This has the effect of added burdens on the parents of these students who would have sacrificed meals and basic amenities in a concerted effort just to see their children pursue higher education; how can one justify this unconscionable act?

We are faced with a Government that is making education access and affordability considerably more expensive at every possible opportunity. And Guyana is a country that is in dire need of education. As such, it should be the reverse with government subsidising the sector more. Fees at the University of Guyana should be used as a tool to rectify the imbalance between social and natural science at UG. More than two-thirds of students at UG are in the social sciences; the reverse should hold whereby the fees should be used to correct this misallocation of human resources rather than to crowd out the poor. We plead with the Government to reverse these policies and let education be a human right and not a luxury for the wealthy, or a distant dream for the proletariat.

Sincerely,

Stephen Kissoon