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November 21, 2020

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Dear Editor,

Some of my friends thought I was imagining things – again. Who in their right minds, after all the country went through just a few months ago, would come up with a hare-brained scheme to train 20,000 Guyanese over the next five years? The contract has already been offered to UWI. No Bill yet.

But wait, there is more. The Press Release, 18th November, 2020, from UWI was revealing and equally alarming. The decision, it seems, was made after a brief discussion between the Vice Chancellor of UWI and the President on the evening of 5th November, 2020.

The first question is to ask if the President was fully aware of the implication of what he was doing when he spoke to the Vice Chancel-lor and then agreed to the arrangement with UWI – cost and all. Who advised the President on this and where were they at the time of the President’s go ahead before UWI floated its Press Release.   

And while the Vice Chancellor appeared overwhelmed by the enormity of the request, “excited at the grand invitation”, he did not seem to have anyone in the vicinity to whisper to him on the matter, either. Moreover, it is not known whether the VC has any professional skills in the area. Professionally he is known as a historian and appeared to have acquired some skills in the sociology of sports. The latter, however, has not gone down well. Lately he has been left looking like a loose cannon after his last book, “Cricket Without a Cause”, castigated West Indian players for their disloyalty to the nationalist cause, proffering professional status and fees.  

On the other side, I agree entirely with coalition MP, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, that the magnitude of the issue is far too significant for an evening’s gaff between the President and UWI’s Vice Chancellor (Stabroek News 20/11/20). The cursory reflection that is apparent in the engagement suggests that the President may have missed our history since the ERP budget of 1989 that eviscerated public sector employment ever since. What is required is nothing less than a national dialogue. MP Tabitha Sarabo-Halley is perfectly in order when she suggests that the “shift that is taking place in our society demands a systematic survey of the human resource needs of the public service, and the country in general”. Anything less will only tinker.

Moreover, it was never a question of training the right numbers – 20,000 or 30,000. Since 1989 we would have quadrupled the number of graduates. At the same time, however, it is estimated that 79 percent of tertiary graduates leave the country. So it is not the case that UG does not know what to do or how to do it. That is a part of the slap in the face here. It has always been a question of what has been done to encourage graduates to remain.

Dr. Cambridge in his letter, (Stabroek News 20/11/2020) leaves an equally troubling question. In the closing remarks to his letter he notes: “A lingering question is whether, this engagement with UWI is associated with Professor Jacob Opadeyi. Professor Opadeyi, a faculty member at UWI, St. Augustine was formerly UG’s Vice Chancellor (2013-2016). Professor Opadeyi who is in some way associated with President Ali’s doctoral work at UWI, St. Augustine, was recently appointed as Special Projects Officer in Guyana’s Minis-try of Education. During his tenure as Vice Chancellor, Professor Opadeyi ’was awarded a US$193,000 contract for the digitization of immovable property records and the establishment of an electronic database with linkage to the sub-registries of the Deeds Registry.’”

These claims are too close for comfort and the only person with enough knowledge to speak to them with sufficient accuracy and fairness is the President himself.

Yours faithfully,

Rishee Thakur

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Disregarding of UG in this proposed plan with UWI is befuddling

November 21, 2020

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Dear Editor,

More than a decade or so ago my now deceased friend and colleague of Trinidad & Tobago would post me copies of CONTACT, a magazine produced by that country’s Private Sector Association, of quality and content I always wished it could have been emulated by our own counterpart body.

Amongst its articles of interest could be those which spoke to the close relationship that it maintained with UWI St. Augustine, who responded by creating education and training programmes that matched the needs of the private sector membership.

One kept wondering to what extent such a partnership existed between our comparable local institutions. The search yielded little returns, which then led to the enquiry about how active relationships were between related Private Sector organisations in the Caribbean as a whole

It is in this context that one experiences a sense of shock at the announcement in Stabroek News of November 20, 2020 that the Presi-dent of Guyana has asserted himself as the appropriate authority to enter into an agreement with the Vice-Chancellor, UWI, Mona, Jamaica, regarding the provision of developmental programmes for some 20,000 Guyanese ‘over the next five years’ (the effective starting year being unclear).

Why the President would think that this announcement would have resonated but with any other than a deep hollowness is befuddling, even to future candidates. Even they would wonder why that Office assumed the relevant competence to address such a substantive human resources developmental strategy, in preference to the Ministry of Edu-cation, for example, but much more commonsensically, our own Univer-sity of Guyana.

There are two letters in Stabroek News of equal date which raise very pertinent questions about this squandering of any strategic approach on our part; for presumably this precipitate action relates to campaign promises of creating 30,000 jobs. Obviously they could not all be public service jobs. So when then was our Private Sector employers brought into this transparent picture.

As alluded to in the aforementioned commentaries what then would be the basis, comprehensive as it must be, on which UWI’s ‘aggressive business plan’ should be structured.

But most profoundly in this misconceptualisation, is the disrespect displayed towards our own Univer-sity of Guyana, and the implication that it has been evaluated as an institution not only unworthy of any exploratory discussion on the subject, but more deprecatorily, not considered as partnering with UWI in a project in which its evaluation of selectees will be required.

Then there seems to have been overlooked reference to critical vocational and technical skills, and the consequent by-passing of our related institutions – in sum therefore the Ministry of Education.

Here again the matter of relevant surveys of human resources needs mentioned in one commentary, seems to have been overlooked in this emotional rush to palliate extant supporters.

One can only hope that all parties at UWI, Jamaica, who are reported to have blessed the Vice-Chancellor in this exercise will also remind him of the propriety of including the colleague institution of the University of Guyana in what should be a creative human and socio-economic project.

Indeed it would hardly be surprising if this institution’s current and past students do not signal a protest at their alma mater being so blatantly disrespected.

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John

President Ali already explained the reason behind the scheme.  It's a brilliant project. Thakur is nuts.   His first question has no merit.   It was a well thought out plan.  One that he stole from the PNC.

@Ramakant-P posted:

President Ali already explained the reason behind the scheme.  It's a brilliant project. Thakur is nuts.   His first question has no merit.   It was a well thought out plan.  One that he stole from the PNC.

Say that to his face and he will make you eat yours like a squirrel. You are too schupid to understand that it's not a brilliant project. How do you know that the number should  be 30,000 versus 20,000?

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