November 21, 2020
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.