…Aubrey Norton says party barefaced to be promising free education

GIVEN that it was the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) that, in 1994, introduced tuition fees at the University of Guyana, it is brazen and “barefaced” of that political party to now promise Guyanese free tertiary education, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) said in a recent statement last week.

The PNCR called out the PPPC for never addressing the issue of free tertiary education, prior to 2019, despite being the party that instituted tuition fees at the University of Guyana (UG) in 1994 and spending 23 years in government without ever addressing the need to reverse such. “It must be the zenith of hypocrisy for them to now be promising a return of free university education. The PPP never had and will never have the university and its students’ interest at heart. When the PPP came to power in 1992 education at the university was free. It is the PPP government which got rid of free university education. It is therefore dishonest, hypocritical and barefacedness for the PPP to be making such a promise,” PNC executive Aubrey Norton noted last Friday, at the PNC weekly press briefing.
The annual tuition fee at the UG was $100 when the University opened its doors on October 2, 1963. However, in 1976, under former President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, all schools of the government were made free from nursery to university and this was enshrined as a right within the 1980 Constitution. Article 27 of the Constitution states: “Every citizen has the right to free education from nursery to university as well as at non-formal places where opportunities are provided for education and training.

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The PPP administration introduced fees for the UG since the academic year 1994/1995. In April of this year, an informal group of young people banded together into what is called the “Free University of Guyana Movement” calling for free University education.

Several politicians have since weighed in on the issue, beginning with Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo who, in May, told the audience at a government outreach in Essequibo that the call for free university education to be restored was being considered by the APNU+AFC government.

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The issue returned to prominence when, in August, President David Granger affirmed the promise to restore Burnham’s legacy of free tertiary education. PPP presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali in September began promising free tertiary education. Norton says the PPP left the university in a terrible state when the party was ousted from government in 2015. The University has faced its share of hardships over the years. “Guyanese will not forget that the PPP starved the University of Guyana of resources and it took President Granger with his deep and sincere interest in education to provide UG with the resources needed so that it is now experiencing significant development. How could the PPP have interest in UG when it allowed the Medical School to lose its accreditation?” Norton questioned.

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The UG School of Medicine (UGSM), in 2015, lost its accreditation following the university’s delay in submitting a report on the school’s progress to the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). The accreditation was restored in 2017.

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“UG is now an accredited Medical School thanks to the APNU+AFC,” Norton noted. Notwithstanding the tuition, Guyanese can apply for scholarships through the Ministry of Public Service. In August the government began offering scholarships to law school students, who must attend law school overseas to complete their education. “Apart from removing free tertiary education and depriving the poor of access to university education, the PPP probably manifested their disdain for helping the poor by refusing to give scholarships to students who wanted to do law. Fortunately for the poor, President David Granger and the APNU+AFC have restored their right to scholarships to pursue legal studies so that the children of the poor who want to become lawyers could realise their ambition,” Norton noted.

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