Scores of students yesterday staged a peaceful protest in front of the University of Guyana
Turkeyen Campus Administration building, remonstrating for an accredited medical school and improved facilities on the campus’s Natural Sciences Faculty, while the UGSS President Joshua Griffith criticized the government for playing politics with their education.
“UG students matter…no students, no pay slips!” “Respect our education,” “UG raise your standard,” and “After 50 years no standard and increased fees?” were scribbled across the placards held up by medical students, medical technology students and other Natural Sciences students at the protest.
Criticizing the poor services offered at the local university, students bashed the government for not listening to them and rendering the assistance they promised when they gained office. The students complained that they did not contend when their facility fees were raised last year because they knew that “better” was needed, but now for some reason or the other facilities remain lacking.
The students griped about late awards of student loans, the medical school accreditation being stripped from the university and poor laboratory facilities.
Griffith protested that the University of Guyana Student Society was incensed that the university administration was holding back on their promises to students. “When the university asked to raise fees we did not kick up a stink because we knew that we needed better…we knew that our facilities were lacking and we knew that our tuition was low, so we paid,” he remonstrated, questioning why would they make an agreement and not deliver when it was their turn.
“How do they expect us to feel as students?” he queried, arguing that if the situation is not altered the students’ revolution will continue.
He said that it was the students who were under pressure and not the university’s administration, charging that they study in an environment where “female students have to “pay an extra price to get good grades”.
“What do you know about pressure UG? How many more students would it take to be allegedly raped and actually raped and it to be publicized before you intervene? How many cars must be broken into and fires must we have to face before you intervene decisively?” Griffith charged at the government, stating that free tertiary education is a declaration of Guyana’s constitution and that the UGSS stands for it.
“Because any nation that is serious about the development of its young people will ensure that it is equipped with what they need to develop themselves and their country. A degree is now a basic part for any individual developing themselves.
“We don’t believe that we are an entitled generation but we do believe in the litmus test of past generations to ensure that the subsequent generations were better off than they were,” he continued.
Griffith argued that education is a right for everyone not a privilege, questioning why educational barriers were erected against the youths. “Why are we raising fees instead of raising our standards and improving our welfare?”
On that note, he invited President Granger to meet with the society and the students to see the conditions they were being forced to study under.
“…See what we see and feel what we feel and deal with what we deal with and if you can’t come to us then we will come to you,” he said, adding that he can expect them at his office with those same placards and more students, gaining heckles of “we coming…we coming.”
He explained that the UGSS was denied discourse with the President when they had asked for a meeting. “That is not my vote,” someone else heckled in the crowd.
“How long more must the students who supported you wait for justice… tell me Mr. Prime Minister we asked to meet you and we have not gotten a response. What about the Berbice Campus that is hemorrhaging?
“Minister of Education, tell me why we preach and talk about value in education yet our teachers struggle to get to classes? Where are you minister for our teachers,” he said impassionedly.
He questioned if the Minister of Finance knew that the services provided by his student loan agency was so substandard that students were unable to sit their examinations because their loans were not awarded.
“We appreciate the fact that now everyone can have student loans but do you know that your service is whack?” he stated, shouting for the government to stop “playing politics with our students…stop playing politics with our education.”
One biology student lamented that she was protesting because she paid her facility fees for the erection of a Natural Sciences building and not a single beam was put down.
“I don’t get my grades on time, the lecturers are very incompetent. I’m here for a higher education and I deserve one and I protest for one. We shouldn’t have to go through this kind of stress…” she said.
Medical students, on the other hand, cried out that their degrees were not accredited. They stated that they were saddened that the university was stripped of its accreditation, and that it seems as though the Ministry of Education and health were dragging their foot on regaining it.
Efforts to re-accredit the UG Medical School are under way after a businessman pledged some $200M to assist in the erection of a building to be used for student instruction. This building will be erected in the compound of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
The UGMS had lost the provisional accreditation it had been granted by Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP) in July 2015.
CAAM-HP was established in 2003 under the guidance of Caricom to determine standards and to accredit programmes of medical, dental, veterinary and other health professions education for Caricom member states.
The local medical school was first granted provisional accreditation in 2008 then again in 2013 after a site visit. The school was required to submit annual progress reports and prepare for a limited survey visit from CAAM-HP as conditions for the retaining and likely improvement of its accredited status.
However, the university failed to submit its annual report in 2015 and the Provisional Accreditation pulled and the school was told to prepare for a full site visit early 2016 if it wishes to regain its accreditation.
The outdated nature of the school’s curriculum, the functioning of an MoU between the Ministry of Public Health, UGMS, and the GPHC, along with an absence of facilities to support the medical programmes at GPHC and UGMS affected the school being accredited.
“We want better because we are paying for this…every year we pay a large facility fee and nothing has changed,” Medical Technology student Donetra Sullivan said.