One cannot help being moved by Swami Aksharananda’s incisive letter in the media, in which he exposed the apparent contradiction between President Granger’s praise for the education provided by private schools and the harsh taxation policy being pursued by the Minister of Finance, “as he sought to justify the 14% tax on students” while pronouncing on “the sins of private schools”.
I am at a loss to fathom such denigration; how can Guyanese reconcile this with the fact that were it not for the valiant efforts made by the numerous ‘pioneers of private secondary education’ in colonial British Guiana, the army of professionals who laid the foundation for an independent, functional Guyana would not have been around? (Think of, for example, R E Cheeks, J C Luck, R Ishmael in Georgetown; or J C Chandisingh, Rudra Nath, A A Ramlochand in Berbice) And while we are in this context, I cannot help thinking, with all humility, of my own involvement as the first Principal of Hindu College initiated by another Swami, ie Swami Purnanda Ji). Of course none of this would have been possible if the parents, many of whom were virtually destitute, were not themselves convinced that education was the most powerful vehicle in their journey to socio-economic and personal development.
Today’s parents are no different from long ago; they also have to gird their loins, make many sacrifices and difficult choices in favour of private education, because they are disillusioned with the offerings of free public education. They have learnt not to ‘look a gift horse in the mouth’, and are prepared to go the extra mile in pursuit of the best available education for their children. This is not to knock our public school system or teachers, but the realities are obvious to the parents who, realizing that there is no second chance for their children, are prepared to ‘go the extra mile’. It is therefore most disheartening for them to now have to tighten their belts and go even further by having to pay an education tax.
I support the call from our revered Swami Aksharananda-Ji for an immediate reconciliation between the apparently divergent approaches taken by our President and Minister of Finance.