Guyana Diary

January 2010

Monthly Newsletter of the Guyana Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela

Quinta Roraima, Prados del Este, Caracas 1050, Venezuela
Telephone: 58-212-977-1158; 58-212-975-3687
Fax: (58) 212 976-3765

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Posted January 2010 - Issue No. 72 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Education Minister outlines major education achievements

Minister of Education, Mr. Shaik Baksh, said that the reformed and expanded teachers’ training programme, expansion of information communication technology (ICT) and technical and vocational education programmes were among the major 2009 achievements in the sector.

Speaking at an end-of-year media briefing on December 30, Baksh, underlining the importance of expanding teacher training, pointed out that quality teachers are needed to ensure quality delivery of education. He said, in an effort to push ahead with this drive, the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) increased its intake by 58 percent in 2009, moving up from 543 the previous year to 931.

He emphasised that CPCE will have to maintain this momentum to achieve the goal of the Education Strategy Plan that aims to increase the number of trained teachers in the system to 70 percent by 2013. He said 592 teachers graduated this year and were placed in all the administrative Regions, representing an 83 per cent increase from the year before.

Baksh also disclosed that CPCE has received US$3.4 million from the World Bank to facilitate institutional strengthening and reform.

He revealed, too, that CPCE will have a new principal in 2010 and the Trained Teachers Certificate in Education course will be discontinued and replaced by an Associate Degree in Education. In addition, CPCE is working closely with University of Guyana (UG) to have the Bachelor in Education Degree course reduced to two years, he added.

He reported that information technology (IT) plans moved apace in 2009 and will be a key area of focus in 2010. According to him, in 2009, 13 secondary schools were added to a list of 27 which already have IT laboratories and his ministry received an additional G$120 million grant to establish more.

At the primary level, Baksh said schools with IT laboratories increased from 15 in 2008 to 45 in 2009 and 336 teachers were trained in the use ICT. He said this training will intensify in 2010 and a multi-media centre has been established, but is awaiting approval for staff recruitment.

The Minister said Guyana, in 2009, out performed some its sister Caricom countries at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations, namely Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica.

University of Guyana turns out over 1,000 graduates

Over a thousand students of the University of Guyana graduated on December 7 after completing their studies in several disciplines. The ceremony was held at the University’s Turkeyen Campus.

Newly-appointed Chancellor, Professor Compton Bourne, in his address, said that the University will be embarking on the implementation of a massive strategic plan for 2009 to 2012 and in so doing has identified important goals.

These are the achievement of higher quality teaching and learning faculties, especially in the area of science and technology; improvement of institutional governance, administration and management; broadening of the University’s financial base; enhancement of its ability to recruit and retain highly trained staff; and the improvement of the teaching, learning and service environment.

Professor Bourne added that these strategic goals which have been formulated after extensive consultations will drastically enhance every aspect of the institution’s operation. He emphasised that this ambitious plan will require the support of all stakeholders, inclusive of the government, business communities and the Guyanese population as a whole. He also said that much more is envisaged in the framework for the implementation for this plan.

The convocation also saw the Chancellor bestowing the title of Emeritus Professor on three of the University’s veterans, Dr. Winston McGowan, Dr. Mary Noel Menezes and Professor Doris Rogers. This title is conferred on retired members of the academic community who attained the rank of Professor.

President Bharrat Jagdeo presented the President’s Medal to valedictorian, Loria-Mae Angela Heywood, while Bibi Areefa Alladin copped the Prime Minister’s Medal for best graduating student in the field of medicine. A Prime Minister’s Medal was also awarded to Adrian Basseer, who also was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal. The Pro-Chancellor’s Medal was awarded to best law student, Delina Best.

The SchoolNet Guyana programme

A Canadian non-profit organisation, Global Partnership for Literacy (Global Literacy) is working with the Ministry of Education on a project aimed at computerising all secondary schools in Guyana.

The project, SchoolNet Guyana, is computer-based and the objective is to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) in approximately 120 secondary schools, targeting 95,000 students, countrywide.

The scheme will help establish computer labs in each school, consisting of 25-35 computers; Internet connection and video projection; train approximately 3,500 teachers in computers and computer-aided instructions, so they can integrate ICT into the curriculum; develop a local digital library, consisting of government information, historical and current reports, research papers, etc.; and develop programmes that extend the benefits of ICT beyond the classroom, more specifically through a series of community kiosks across the country to the Internet; provide after-school programmes, distance learning modules and serve, generally, as internet cafés.

Global Literacy, the principal sponsor, is a Diaspora-based NGO spearheaded by a board of well qualified individuals from academia, the social sciences, business, engineering, technology and project management, with on-the-ground support from the Ministry of Education.

The Chairman of Global Literacy is Guyana's Honorary Consul General in Toronto, Canada, Mr. Danny Doobay.

300,000 ounces of gold declared for 2009

A record breaking 300,000 ounces of gold have been declared for 2009, thanks to the efforts of small and medium scale gold miners who dedicate their lives to the search for this precious mineral.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, who is the Minister with responsibility for Mines and Minerals, recently congratulated all who contributed to the achievements of the sector for 2009, including institutions such as the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) and the Guyana Gold Board (GDB).

“Gold prices have been good, and the sector has done exceedingly well for itself during these last years in providing much needed improvements in economies at the family level, and a large portion of our exports and foreign exchange income at the national level,” Prime Minister Hinds said.

With the global challenges which the climate change phenomenon pose, Mr. Hinds said the world’s interest in sustaining remaining forests has heightened awareness of the negative environmental and social impact of small and medium scale mining.

“Miners have been sensitised to these issues and areas for improvement have been identified. Now, improved lower-impact, more efficient, higher recovery methods are being demonstrated and sought, as well as restorative practices,” the Prime Minister said.

As small and medium scale miners continue to be successful, Mr. Hinds is also looking forward to rapid adjustments, such as avoiding illegal exports to both neighbouring and distant countries.

EC’s price-cut impacts on sugar industry

Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, has reiterated that the European Commission (EC) remains one of Guyana’s valuable partners, but noted that in any partnership, differences of opinion and perspective will exist.

He noted that the government has always maintained and made it clear that there was grave concern about the EC’s price cut and its projected debilitating impact on the local industry.

Recognising that the Guyana government was aware of the forthcoming changes and the inherent challenges, the Minister indicated that the unilateral and abrupt nature of the cut and impact on sugar in Guyana and other countries have been severe, to the extent that the industry in several regional neighbours has been closed.

The EC has imposed a 36 percent preferential price cut for sugar on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, of which Guyana is a member.

The Minister posited that the Commission’s funding, which became available on December 24 and has thus far amounted to 25 million Euros of a committed 100 million Euros, has been grossly inadequate and quite below the needed amount to compensate for the damage that has been done as a result of the price cut. Projections indicate that it will take many years for the industry to recover from the challenges of 2009.

Importantly, Minister Persaud highlighted the fact that the aforementioned funds sent by the EC to the Ministry of Finance came after Government and the management of the local industry struggled to maintain stability and order throughout the year. Further, these resources will not go directly to GUYSUCO but to the ministry as budgetary support.

From an internal budgetary perspective, and financed by the nation’s treasury, it is the government that has invested US$181 million into the Skeldon sugar factory in Berbice and US$12 million into the Enmore packaging plant.

Further investments in canals and drainage remain substantial, part of an overall plan to enhance existing standards in cultivation, production and diversification in the context of preparing new, value-added products for local, regional and international markets.

The Minister emphasised that had it not been for the government’s commitment in frontloading these resources, or had the administration waited on the EC for funding, the industry would have ultimately collapsed and face terminal closure.

Specifically, Minister Persaud stated, “We must not underestimate the severity, disruption and hardship that have and will be caused on the industry, having lost G$20 billion in earned revenue, especially a company that is already fragile.”

Current statistic indicate that the European price cut has a debilitating effect on the industry, with losses in excess of $72.4 million Euros in 2009, and with projected losses in 2010 of $37.5 million Euros.

GRA earns record revenue collection of over G86.4B

Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Mr. Khurshid Sattaur has described the year 2009 as incredible in terms of revenue collection and the progress made toward the development of a modern, functional tax organisation.

Mr. Sattaur said that while 2008 was a fairly successful one, 2009 revenue performance has been significantly better with a more that 10 percent improvement over the previous year. This has resulted in the revenue agency surpassing the 2009 revenue collection estimates of $86.4 billion.

He said the GRA has set a new record in revenue collection despite many challenges. Some sections of the private sector continue to employ tax evasion practices such as under-invoicing and maintaining dual books.

However, the resounding success Mr. Sattaur said can be attributed to the shift the organisation has taken from a tax type to a functional approach of administering taxes and the reliability of the Total Revenue Integrated Processing System (TRIPS) to facilitate the process.

The TRIPS has been aligned to these business processes to ensure efficiency and security of operations. In order to better execute its mandate to protect revenue and improve its service to all stakeholders, there were also improvements to the organisation’s infrastructure during 2009.

Guyana scores despite Copenhagen setbacks

Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) stands to benefit on several fronts despite the setbacks at the recent chaotic and mismanaged global climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, President Bharrat Jagdeo reported on December 24.

“We are ahead of the game because of our agreement with Norway”, he said referring to the accord the two countries signed in November 2009 under which Norway will provide US$250 million to the LCDS up to 2015.

“At least we have secured some money; other countries have not yet secured anything and we have the possibility, at least over the next three years, to get some more money from the US$10 billion per annum agreed for vulnerable countries,” Mr. Jagdeo said.

He pointed out that the US$10 billion a year pledged for vulnerable countries up to 2012 would allow supplemental financing that would compensate Guyana to the true value of the agreement with Norway.

He stressed that the lack of progress in Copenhagen will not stop the LCDS from moving forward because the LCDS is a development strategy and that has to be advanced.

Support for hinterland communities

As part of the Ministry of Agriculture's effort to manage the current El Niño conditions, a high-level team of officials visited Region One (Barima-Waini) to further assess and distribute planting materials and provide other forms of support to farmers of Mabaruma sub-region. The team visited communities that were affected during earlier needs assessments. During the outreach, an assessment of the acoushi ant control programme was undertaken. The team held meetings at Maburuma, Hotoquai, Hobadai and Morawhanna, where cassava sticks and pineapple slips were distributed.

Farmers were urged to ensure that the planting materials are properly utilised. In response to requests by farmers for citrus plants, interested persons were invited to attend a series of training programmes aimed at providing training in plant propagation methods that would commence in Hosororo during the third week of January. Additional support in the form of chemicals was also presented to various communities as part of the Ministry's acoushi ant control programme.

Farming communities of Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) also benefited from additional support, while a technical assessment was conducted to determine additional agricultural needs of the farming communities of Paramakatoi, Tuseneng and Monkey Mountain.

LCDS approved by the National Assembly

The motion on Guyana’s Model of a Low Carbon Development Path was on December 17 approved by the National Assembly with the support of the opposition, but with some reservations.

Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, who moved the motion, told the House that the visionary strategy demonstrates how Guyana can use its forest to mitigate climate change, while at the same time obtaining compensation for the services it provides to the world.

He also pointed out that there were wide and inclusive consultations on the strategy among all stakeholders following international best practices.

Alliance for Change (AFC) Chairman, Kemraj Ramjattan expressed his party’s support of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) but voiced concerns about the Government’s slow pace or non- implementation of schemes that were approved by the National Assembly.

People’s National Congress Reform-One Guyana (PNC-R1G) Parliamentarian, Winston Murray, acknowledged the timeliness of the strategy in light of the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence of the danger of climate change.

He also lauded the work of President Bharrat Jagdeo in championing the fight against climate change both at the local and international levels.

The PNCR member stressed that the local forest represents the national patrimony of the Guyanese people and any money received for its services to the world must be used in a manner that will ensure all stakeholders enjoy equitable benefits.

He also called for full transparency in the management of any proceeds obtained from the Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative.

His colleague, Lance Carberry, also stressed that his party’s support of the LCDS because of the financial benefits it will bring for Guyana.

WWF donates $10M to Amerindian communities

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), on December 17 formalised a G$10 million agreement with the Toshaos of Batavia, Region 7 (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) and Kwebanna of Region One (Barima-Waini) to provide assistance to their communities.

This agreement builds on a previous project in sustainable forest resource use, done in collaboration with the British High Commission and Guyana Forestry Commission.

The aim of the initiative is to further promote sustainable alternative livelihoods in Batavia and Kwebanna. It is expected to reduce dependency on logging and promote production of value-added timber products such as doors and mouldings, and the utilisation of timber waste.

Also included in the initiative is promoting the use of non-timber forest products such as nibbi and kufa. Other practical small enterprises to be supported are aquaculture, poultry rearing and sewing.

Most of WWF’s assistance entails the provision of equipment and relevant training. The pieces of equipment to be provided to each community include sewing machines, a generator, power tools, and hand tools. Some of the training will be conducted by companies specialising in nibbi and kufa furniture. In addition, a six-week training course in sewing will be conducted in both villages.

It is hoped that in promoting alternative income generation to these two communities, more people will move away from the more extractive and less sustainable activities such as the felling and sale of logs.

WWF has been encouraged to continue its work in these communities following the successful completion of the previous project and the enthusiasm of the villagers in pursuing more sustainable livelihoods.

Minister Desrey Fox dies after road accident

After sustaining severe injuries on Tuesday December 8, 2009, from a car accident, Dr Desrey Fox, Guyana’s junior Minister of Education, died on December, 2009, at Georgetown Public Hospital.

Fox’s car, driven by her son, collided with an ambulance and taxi near the sea-wall in Georgetown.

Born on January 2, 1956 at Waramadong Village, Kamarang, Upper Mazaruni District (Region 7), Desrey Clementine Caesar-Fox was the eldest of seven children.

She attended the Waramadong Primary School, and the Campbellville Government School and then briefly the Georgetown Seventh-Day Adventist Academy.

She was awarded a nursing scholarship in 1973 and was a trained midwife at the Georgetown Hospital School of Nursing. She married a few years later.

In 1977 she joined the University of Guyana (UG) as a junior researcher attached to a special project referred to as the Amerindian Languages Project. She continued serving within this unit until it evolved into the present Amerindian Research Unit. At UG, she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.

Minister Fox secured a Master’s of Arts in Environmental Anthropology from the University of Kent at Canterbury, in the United Kingdom in 1997, then a Master’s of Arts in Linguistics in 2003, and a PhD in Linguistics from Rice University, also in 2003.

Dr. Fox in her climb to gain her professional status served as an associate researcher at the University of Oregon and Co-ordinator of Amerindian Research Unit, UG.

She was the Curator of the Walther Roth Museum of Anthropology and lectured in Linguistics and Amerindian Studies at UG and also taught special courses at the Rice University and the University of Oregon. She was also a recipient of numerous awards and scholarships.

Dr. Fox has written several scholarly essays in fields of anthropology, sociology and linguistics with a bias towards indigenous cultures in Guyana and the wider Caribbean.

She was appointed on September 10, 2006 as the Minister within the Ministry of Education, a position she held until her death.

Independence leader Brindley Benn dies at 86

Former Minister of Government and one of the key leaders of the Guyanese independence movement, Brindley Horatio Benn, died on December 11 at age 86.

Benn served in the capacity as Minister of Education, National Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Influenced by the speeches of the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan about the occurrences in the bauxite industry and colonial rule, Benn joined the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in the early 1950s and became integrally involved in politics. He subsequently founded the Pioneer Youth League, a predecessor to the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO).

His party campaigning activities led him to New Amsterdam, Berbice, where in October 1953 his movement was restricted only to that town by the British authorities after the constitution was suspended.

After returning to Georgetown in 1956, Benn was elected Chairman of the PPP and Member of the Executive Committee. He served as representative of the Essequibo Islands and the Interior.

After the party contested and won the 1957 elections, Benn was appointed Minister of Community Development and Education. It was during this time that he organised the National History and Culture Week under the theme, “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”, the slogan that later became Guyana’s independence motto.

He was appointed Minister of Agriculture after the PPP contested and won the 1961 General Elections, and was instrumental in setting up the Guyana School of Agriculture in 1963. He also had oversight functions of the implementation of the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary (MMA), Boerasirie Scheme, Tapakuma Scheme and Black Bush Polder.

Unrest in the early 1960s lead to Brindley Benn’s detention by the British and imprisonment at the Sibley Hall, Mazaruni Prison for several months. He was released in 1965.

After his release Brindley Benn formed his own party, the Working People’s Vanguard Party (WPVP), and in the late 1970s he joined with prominent figure Walter Rodney and others to form the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

After the return of the PPP to government in 1992, Brindley Benn re-joined the PPP and later served as Guyana’s High Commissioner to Canada from 1993 to 1998.

News Briefs

Credits: Stabroek News, Chronicle, Mirror, Kaieteur News, GINA

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

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