November 20 ,2020
On November 18, 2020, the Regional HQ of The University of the West Indies issued the Media Release titled `UWI going to Guyana’ stating that Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali had invited UWI “to help drive forward Guyana’s human resource development strategy.”
The anticipated engagement adds a new dimension to the long relations between UWI and Guyana. Our relations are primal. Guyana was there, virtually from UWI’s UCWI beginnings in 1948. Guyana and Guyanese have been dedicated and valuable contributors to the respect that UWI has earned as an international university.
The “UWI going to Guyana” Media Release ought to have invoked a feeling that we are at the start of a new moment in Guyanese and Caribbean tertiary education. A regional response to the task of saving our fragile and stressed planet. Depressingly, it is not the case!
Current deconstruction of responses to the release reveals hurt and evidence of the reassertion of the insensitive style and tactics that have characterized the first 100 days of President Irfaan Ali’s administration.
The absence of reference to the University of Guyana in the media release is seen as a snub and disrespectful of the national university. This further suggests that the “UWI going to Guyana” relationship is a cold transactional one. A reading of the Media Release, suggests that The University of the West Indies, has an available knowledge pool to deliver in Guyana for a price. The potential market is “20,000 nationals over the next five years.” At current market rates for credible online tertiary-level education, UWI is poised to earn a very tidy sum of Guyana’s national treasure.
This is seen as the Guyana as an ATM perspective.
Our fragile planet, stressed by power-hungry politics and the consequences of polluted environments, desperately seeks an integration and application of knowledge. This is about the survival of the human species. How do we as a species survive and thrive and, in the process, create just and caring societies? These questions and this quest have been perennial.
For almost twelve centuries, the university has been the place for this act of integration, synthesis, and the creation of new knowledge about the world we live in, how things work, and what is possible.
Guyana is an exciting mode in a nascent Caribbean-inflected international tertiary education environment. Guyana’s reality—geography, terrain, flora, fauna, hydrology, mineralogy, history, politics, and its living culture—is a crucial variable in our understanding of the big picture context and in preparing for a future which aspires to be just and caring.
We have played unnecessary politics with the national university since its creation in 1963. The time has come to grow-up! Guyana is getting to a place where for the next 20 – 40 years, the national wealth could increase by hitherto unimagined levels. This will be the function of the recently discovered oil and gas. However large the declared quantities are, it is a finite resource. Oil and gas will come to an end. We need to be thinking about what lies beyond oil and gas.
The Media Release from The Univer-sity of the West Indies suggests an already predetermined package to be delivered “aggressively.” Surely, a more appropriate and respectful trajectory should be establishing and institutionalizing an era of reciprocity. A win-win strategy. Not a zero-sum game. One that will benefit the regional tertiary education system with innovative teaching and learning, robust research, and transforming service.
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 Chan-cellor (2013-2016). Professor Opadeyi who is in some way associated with President Ali doctoral work at UWI, St. Augustine, was recently appointed as Special Projects Officer in Guyana’s Ministry 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.”
We have played unnecessary politics with the national university since its creation in 1963. It is time we give it a chance to grow and flourish.
Vibert Cambridge, Ph.D., A.A.