Tertiary education must become vital lifeforce of national development – President

President Dr Irfaan Ali, during the delivery of his convocation speech to the University of Guyana’s class of 2020, said that Guyana is at a phase of its development where tertiary education must become a vital lifeforce of national development.
The Head of State spoke to the graduates virtually on Friday evening after he would have also presented the President’s Medal to the two valedictorians; 24-year-old Deepa Odit from the Turkeyen Campus, who completed a Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmacy and attained a 3.9 GPA and 36-year-old Savitree Budram from the Tain Campus, who completed a Bachelor of Education – Administration and attained a GPA of 4.0.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

Ali said that his Government remains committed to refashioning the University of Guyana to better respond to the needs of modern society.
“Guyana is embarking not only on a process which will yield higher levels of growth and human development but which would also require higher levels of education and learning. A key element of the national development agenda is the entrenchment of a knowledge-based economy and as you are aware, such an economy depends on and demands highly skilled human capital and emphasises the importance of lifelong learning,” he said.
He urged the graduates to constantly challenge themselves to become smarter and better. He charged them to allow lifelong learning to become an engrained habit since the rate of change in the world is so rapid that skills and knowledge quickly become obsolete.

New economy
The President said that if one fails to continuously upgrade and enhance their knowledge and skills then they are likely to be left behind in the new economy. He added that the new economy involves a paradigm shift in the way things are done, explaining that it is in that context that tertiary education must become a vital lifeforce of national development.
“(In the new economy) knowledge is combined with capital and entrepreneurship in ways which are different than in the past. The new economy will be geared not at simply producing raw materials but apply technology to transform other commodities into wealth to compete in a modern world, will not be about constraining labour cost but about catalysing innovation.
“Tertiary education must add to the demand of the new economy which requires higher levels of skills, particularly technical skills. The Government of Guyana is here to support tertiary education especially through investments and through collaboration with our varied education stakeholders to improve the range of our educational options available to our citizenry,” Ali informed.
He reminded of some of the commitments his Government made before taking office in August of 2020 – namely providing free access to tertiary education to all Guyanese and the provision of over 20,000 scholarships before the end of its 5-year term.
“My Government had pledged to refashion the University of Guyana to better respond to the needs of a modern Guyana. We have promised to improve the technological advancement of the university and in so doing to ensure greater access to higher education by making more courses and programmers available online. My Government has committed to guaranteeing free university education before the end of its term, we will do so,” he reminded.

Expansion of
tertiary education
Ali further related that it is the intention of the Government he leads to expand tertiary education access with the creation of the Guyana Online Academy of Learning. He said that they have already established partnerships with various universities and applied science institutions.
Some of those institutions include the Indira Gandhi National University in India, the University of Applied Science in Germany, the Open University in the UK and the University of the West Indies’ open campus to provide over 4500 scholarships to Guyanese student commencing in July of 2021.
Referring to the recent collaboration with Commonwealth of Learning and Coursera through the workforce recovery programme, Ali said that it is pleasing to see over 36,000 Guyanese taking the opportunity to broaden their knowledge in various fields of study.
The Ali-led Government is also committed to seeing the Cyril Potter College of Education and UG transition online so that they can attain key strategic objectives as they continue to serve our populace.
“The University of Guyana has played a critical role in preparing our citizens to better craft, participate in and better as face national development. It continues to be a primary driver in this regard. We must work on enhancing its capacity and role within the national fabric. As such, I strongly support the University’s effort to position itself as a transcendent institution working across all divides and across time to create the best Guyanese graduate fit for purpose…The University, therefore, have a key role to play in advancing our efforts to transition to a low carbon economy to maximise the opportunities emerging from our growth strategic position and towards improve governance, accountability, equity and social cohesion,” the Head of State related.

“Guyana needs you, all of you”
Acknowledging the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way things are being conducted, the President said that the virtual convocation ceremony is one of the most notable in the history of UG.

“Today’s convocation is a testament to our people’s perseverance in the face of challenges. Throughout our history, our people have demonstrated the tenacity and desire to overcome seeming insurmountable odds…It has been a most challenging year for our country and you students have faced a great deal of setbacks but you’ve made it to the finish line to the University of Guyana’s class of 2020. I applaud you and extend my heartfelt congratulations on your long-awaited and well-deserved graduation,” he said.
Ali told the Class of 2020 that they are graduating at a time when the country is on its most significant development trajectory, as such it is imperative that they position themselves to take full advantage of the unprecedented growth being realised across various sectors.
“You will be expected to become key players in our efforts to advance national development. Education has long been universally acknowledged as a cornerstone of development. The quality of human capital has a strong association with higher national output and increased efficiency. The World Bank forewarned us years ago that countries with low levels of education remain in a trap of technological stagnation, low growth and low demand for education. Guyana looks to you to be on the forefront of promoting innovation and propelling our country to higher outputs and attainment,” Ali charged.