All Guyana mourns for the young citizens in a single tragedy

Dear Editor,
The recent deadly fire tragedy at Mahdia, where at least 20 schoolgirls lost their lives when their dormitory became engulfed in flames, tells us one fundamental truth about ourselves – a truth that Guyanese do not even see because it is so endemic in our society – the plain truth that we are too dishonest for our own good.
Firstly, and I am sure I state this on behalf of all fellow Guyanese irrespective of race, region, religion or party affiliation, my heartfelt condolences are extended to all the bereaved families. Two of my children spent significant years of their lives living in school dorms, or the equivalent at university, with like-minded other youngsters there for furthering their education. I can well imagine how wracked with grief the bereaved parents feel having not seen or maybe even spoken with their lost child possibly for weeks in some cases.
To a significant degree, dishonesty is to blame for the distressing deaths of those hapless girls. But for the security grilles in place on the windows of the dormitory – sensibly put in place for security reasons I would like to assume – all or most of those girls would have been alive today in the light of early reports that have emerged. But for the known fact that residential buildings in Guyana need to be protected against invasion by burglars, security grilles would not have been considered for installation over dormitory windows as considerations of health and safety would have taken precedence.
It is sadly the case, however, that Guyanese have become so inherently dishonest that protecting oneself or one’s property is automatically given top priority. It’s the reason why sensible ladies carry handbags tucked under one arm rather than show off the bag’s design that attracted them to buy it in the first place. It is why passengers will lock car doors – not against inquisitive and playful children but against robbers – rather than consider that an unlocked door would give rescuers easier access in the event of an accident. It is also the reason why to run any business in Guyana it is imperative that the proprietor be physically present to “watchman” the running of shop, dredge or minibus – for otherwise the returns will just never be anywhere near to accurate as employees will always dishonestly seek to do their own business within the business.
Lost are some 20 young souls who would have had so much to enjoy in the new Guyana that is emerging before our very eyes – and each one would have played a part in the reinvigorated nation building process. Beyond the utterly terrible family tragedies, this manifestation of the real consequences of having to guard against dishonesty represents a huge loss to our country. It is also a wakeup call for all of us Guyanese – it is a collective responsibility, so no finger-pointing or holier-than-thou attitude allowed – to strive to be honest in our interactions with each other. Public figures should lead the way; demonstrate by your actions that you are beyond reproach about allegations or even suggestions of corruption, and the would-be burglar could be encouraged to act contrary to his normal proclivities. Guyana is now making enough money that ought to keep both politician and burglar happy without the antisocial behaviour!
With such a positive adjustment of collective national attitude, grilles can become a measure deployed in exceptional circumstances only, rather than as an automatic security bolt-on that usually puts health and safety at real risk. Our actions taken to protect property should always be weighed against health and safety considerations. Grilles should not be installed over upper floor windows, for example, as a matter of course. Proper security lighting, and in appropriate circumstances disciplined human security, ought to be preferred options instead of the potentially deadly to occupants but reliable burglar-deterrent grilles.
Today all Guyana mourns losing the lives of many of our young citizens in a single tragedy. May their souls rest in peace.

Yours truly,
Ronald Bostwick