Loan forgiveness as a prelude to free education is a giant step for Guyana

Dear Editor,
The Government’s announcement of forgiveness of education loans, which would benefit an estimated 13,000 UG students and cost 11 billion dollars, is a huge investment in the youths of Guyana. And the relaxation of requirement to show employment and NIS contributions in order to make it easier for students to receive forgiveness is also a wise decision.
We celebrate this loan forgiveness initiative. The Government would do well to do something similar for those victims of the NIS, who are waiting for their NIS benefits. This includes my 88-year-old cousin who has been waiting for his payments for 28 years!
The Government’s appealing of the Shariff Zainul NIS case – to not pay the man because it would become a class-action ruling that would benefit working-class people in similar situations – is sad and regrettable. The same way the Government has allocated funds for the UG students, they must allocate funds to solve the lingering problems of the victims of NIS.
The sad thing about the Government’s laudable action of forgiveness of loans is that some people would not see this action as a very good thing, as they think only direct salary increases matter. But $11 billion going to benefit 13,000 students is a huge transfer of income, and is a very substantial assistance to the recipients. Many teachers would benefit from this.
Some may say that increases for old age pensioners, NIS pensioners, and public assistance recipients should have gotten priority. Maybe the needs of these groups would be addressed soon.
Even the rich and mighty USA does not give free university education. For Guyana to embark on this action is quite commendable. President Biden tried hard to do loan forgiveness in the USA, but the Republicans opposed that. They managed to get some limited reliefs in loan forgiveness.
For our people to prosper, we have to create an “opportunity culture”, wherein we provide many avenues for people to improve themselves. There are rapid, ongoing socio-economic changes which are transforming our economy and creating needs for an educated populace that would take advantage of emerging new high-paying jobs.
Universal access to education and training are the gateways to a better life. In the old colonial days, higher education was scarce, was rationed, and was reserved for the academically gifted who did well at the Common Entrance Exam, now called the NGSA (National Grade Six Exam). Guyana is moving away from that old colonial model that restricted access to educational opportunities. We are now creating an opportunity culture to promote greater equity and parity across all regions.
The loan forgiveness, on top of the GOAL scholarships benefitting thousands, is to be immeasurably applauded. This is a giant step for Guyana. The Government said it is keeping its campaign promises. It’s up to our people in all regions to take advantage of all training and educational opportunities available in our high schools, technical institutes, TVET (technical and vocational education training centres), teachers’ training college (CPCE), UG, GOAL, and numerous training avenue provided by the oil and gas companies, etc.

Dr J Jailall