Education is the tool that Guyana’s children will use to transform this nation. President David Granger has led the Government of Guyana in restoring the entitlement of every child to free nursery, primary, and secondary education and the right of every Guyanese to access education and training opportunities.
Throughout the month of September, Guyana observed Education Month, which culminated with the Ministry of Education’s inaugural Education Expo on September 30. In the presence of hundreds of school children, President Granger expressed his vision for Education in Guyana.
The future of education
“Education is central to your lives, your families, to your communities, and to the country and National Education Month is the most important celebration we could have in the entire calendar year,” the Head of State said.
President Granger explained that the students have a constitutional right to education.
“I believe that education is an entitlement. It is there and it has been there for 30 years in our Constitution and I vow that from next year, we are going to reintroduce that entitlement so that every child in Guyana is entitled, not only to free nursery, primary, and secondary education, but also, if you’re qualified, you’ll be entitled to free tertiary education as well. So, you don’t have to migrate. You don’t have to go away. We are going to build a first-class education system. Every Guyanese child will be educated on all four levels, nursery, primary, secondary, and tertiary at State expense. It is your entitlement,” he said.
The Government of Guyana this year has allocated a further $52 billion toward education, an increase of 64 per cent since taking office in 2015. This, President Granger said, is proof that he intends to make good on these promises.
“Students of Guyana, these are not empty promises. This is a plan to make sure that you get the best education that is available in the Caribbean… I wish I was young again like you to take advantage of these opportunities that we are opening up. Today we haven’t come here to give you a history lesson about what happened in the past. Today, we’ve come here to tell you about the future. Today we’ve come to tell you that Guyana is a great place to be and Guyanese are great people and you will inherit a great future,” he said.
While the Ministry of Education has received a financial boost for its initiatives and programmes, Minister of Education, Dr. Nicolette Henry, made it clear that the Ministry is committed to making sure that all of Guyana’s students are educated in whatever field they want to pursue. This, the Minister said, will ensure Guyanese can live the good life.
“Undoubtedly, education is the most important tool that symbolises growth in any nation. Education lessens the challenges you will face in life. The more knowledge you gain, the more opportunities will open up to allow you to achieve better possibilities in career and personal growth. I can assure you that the Ministry of Education and the Government of Guyana is committed to providing educational opportunities for all sectors of society, thereby delivering on our promise as a Government of a good life for all Guyanese. Consequently, it is with confidence that I put before you… the irrefutable fact that education in Guyana is moving forward,” the Minister of Education said.
In keeping with this year’s theme for Education Month, ‘Education: the key to national development’, the Minister said that the Ministry is focused on facilitating the development of critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, digital technology skills in Guyana’s students. This, she said is being done through curriculum reform, initiatives that level education accessibility between hinterland and coastland, the implementation of the use of technology in the classroom, and the implementation of programmes related to Guyana’s emerging oil and gas sector in preparation of the nation’s changing economic reality.
Minister Henry urged the students to take advantage of the services provided by the Ministry in order to become the transformative leaders of Guyana’s future.
“You are our future leaders. It is our desire to provide an education sector designed to allow each of you to reach your full potential. I urge you, every boy and every girl to take full advantage of the services that we are providing and I ask that you become leaders of skill, knowledge, and ethics, so that you could make us proud as Guyanese,” she said.
Targeting marginalised groups
Some marginalised sectors of society overcome diverse challenges to access education. Sadly, Guyana’s school aged children are forced to leave the school environment for various reasons, many of them having little to do with poor academic performance.
The Department of Youth within the Ministry of Social Cohesion is combatting this unfortunate phenomenon through its Night School initiative. The Night Schools have given school aged, out-of-school aged, and adult learners a second chance at attaining an education. Senior Research Planning and Development Officer at the Department of Youth, Ms. Adeti De Jesus explains.
“The night school programme was conceptualised in 2015 after visiting several communities and recognising that… a lot of young people out there, they do not have five subjects inclusive of Maths and English. A number of young people… were dropping out of school without even attempting to write the CXC subjects and persons who wrote the CXC subjects were not successful in gaining the five subjects. So, we saw the need for such a program to empower young people because as you know, you need five subjects in order to transition to higher learning, for example, the University of Guyana… In order to be employed, persons are asking, employers require… that you have CXC,” she said.
The programme, which started in 2016 with only three Night Schools, has not only been able to open three additional facilities, but has also seated students at CXC examinations every year. Every year, the Night School students see over 50 per cent passes with grades one to three.
Ms. Makeda Williams and Ms. Monerva Cadogan were able to exercise their entitlement to secondary education, earning their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) by attending a Night School.
“At first, I was nervous because… [I’m] a young person surrounded by older folks. You’re expected to be respectful and carry yourself in a [certain] manner… but they were amazing. They are now my family. I can say honestly because everyone I see is like… my brother, my sister. The coordinator is like a father. So, anybody I see I would tell them [the Soesdyke Night School] is a good place to go if you want to finish CXC if you haven’t,” Ms. Williams said.
Her passion for education was rekindled. Ms. Williams proceeded to recount her learning experience before speaking about her future plans.
“I used to go to a secondary school in Georgetown, from my opinion I didn’t really understand how they taught but when I went there, they broke it down to the simplest, to atoms I should say, the smallest particles that you can understand… That helped me to get into sixth form. St Joseph’s High accepted me and I see myself, after sixth form, going into University and possibly being a future teacher or author,” she said.
Ms. Williams was inspired and encouraged to pursue CSEC at the Night School by her own mother, Ms. Melissa Giles, who also successfully participated in the initiative.
“My mother started the Night School late August in the year 2017 and from seeing her going there and the way she was able to help and advise me... motivated me more, I was like Mom, I’m not ready to write CXC this year… She said alright, she can’t afford to send me to school all the time in town, that’s difficult since it’s her alone, so she moved me to the Night School actually and that was awesome. She helped me in areas I didn’t understand… and everything else, she helped motivate me and in the year 2018 she passed three of four subjects and this year… she [re-wrote] the one she failed along I think with four others… and she passed all,” she said.
Ms. Cadogan, a single mother, credits the Night School for her newfound ability to redirect her career.
“Going back to school has always been something that I wanted to do, I dropped out of school when I was 15, close to 16 years old and I always longed for the opportunity to get some CXC subjects... It was extremely challenging because I work in the mornings from 6-10 and then I went home, I deal with my kids and I deal with the kids at home… I would go in a corner and study so I could gain knowledge to become successful… The Night School brought me from not having any qualifications, so now I am proudly the holder of three CXC subjects and I am currently applying at the Guyana Police Force and I would like to see myself becoming a public prosecutor in the future,” she said.
A number of Ministries and Government Agencies have come alongside the Ministry of Education to provide education and training opportunities for the people of Guyana. Education remains a top priority on the State’s agenda. President Granger and the Government of Guyana are truly committed to arming the next generation with the knowledge and skills need to transform Guyana and the lives of all Guyanese.