April 27, 2017

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