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UG students, staff demand more if tuition fees increased

UG Vice Chancellor Professor Jacob Opadeyi (left) and Law Student, Glenford Denison argue with each other at the consultation on the planned increase in tuition fees.

The University of Guyana (UG) Vice Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi on Tuesday came under intense pressure to deliver higher salaries and better teaching-learning conditions, some of which he promised.

Opadeyi was the main presenter at consultations with staff and students about the proposed increase in tuition fees for the first time since they were introduced in 1994.  He said the administration planned to still peg most of the fees at US$1,000 per academic year but local currency that could see students having to fork out GUY$210,000 rather than the current GUY$127,000.

Chairman of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association, Dr. Patsy Francis told the morning session of the consultation with staff that workers would be demanding a 60 percent hike in salaries.

“The money must not trickle down, but must drop down to us,” she told the session that was held in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre. Available figures show that a Distinguished Professor earns GUY$420,000 monthly, Assistant Lecturers takes home about GUY$126,000 and a member of the support staff earns a mere GUY$21,000.

During the afternoon session, the Vice Chancellor said money from the tuition fees would not be spent on paying higher salaries. “We are not going to use your money to pay debt, we are not going to use your money to pay salaries,” he said. Opadeyi explained that UG intended to ask government to increase its subvention to the publicly-owned institution.

He pointed out that the increase in tuition fees was not alone expected to bail out UG from its financial woes. “The increase in tuition that we are asking for will not put us in the black. Part B is to go to the government and say our subvention has to increase,” he said.

A number of students demanded specific guarantees that the quality and conditions of teaching-learning would improve during a specified time-period.  “Don’t say there is no guarantee. There is guarantee in my words and in my actions. We have done a lot of things that you may not see it visible but it does not mean that we are just sitting down here and don’t care about our students,” he said.’

Plans include a curriculum review, improved laboratories, free Internet access, use of Information Communications Technology to deliver instructional content and a new library.

Berating previous UG administrations for mismanaging the institution albeit “with a human face,” he assured the students that they would see improvements in the coming months if the fees are increased.

To thunderous cheers and applause, Belizean law student  Glenford Denison and the Vice Chancellor went head-to-head.  “You couldn’t come up with a little better plan than raise the fees?” asked Denison repeatedly while Opadeyi responded “No”. Denison also asked the Vice Chancellor to present students a copy of the UG’s financial status to justify increasing tuition fees. The student also demanded that Opadeyi present a report card of his performance to students.