Held at the Critchlow Labour College under the theme “Guyana Approaching 50 and Beyond: Whither Independence?,” the forum heard Attorney-at-Law, Onassis Granville saying that the February 2002 escape of five inmates from the Georgetown Prison and their entry into Buxton and other Black villages marked the tipping-point at which idle youths joined the gang in their quest for wealth and power.
Noting that the experiences of that period “have not worn away” and African Guyanese are “still suffering from the effects of that time,” Granville called for an aggressive plan-of-action to imbue business skills in that section of the society. “The truth is that is happening because of the fact that the Afro-Guyanese community is economically weak. I would suggest that if we are to change the course of history as regards young African men, what we need to do is to change their economic circumstances because what these men are looking for are money and power. Right now, they are acquiring it illegally,” she said.
One example she cited was the discovery of an Agricola man on Facebook with guns and loads of cash shortly after he was shot to death during the course of committing a robbery.
The young lawyer stressed the need to teach African Guyanese their history, love for self and others, and sustainable earning and money management and investment. “When we speak of education, one of the most important things we need to do is to educate them on how to be successful entrepreneurs,” she added. The young Attorney argued that economically empowered persons could influence political outcomes and reduce instances of political brutality.
But well-known educator in Buxton, Deon Abrams said a lot more work needed to be done to firstly let African Guyanese children understand the value of education rather than being rebellious and fashion-conscious. “Our children seem not to understand why they are at school and that is the biggest problem.”
“A lot of the problems we get in school basically result from the attitude of Black people’s children. It is not to say that the Indians don’t have problems. Many of them ride minibuses, they drink alcohol…It means, therefore, that if we are to fix this problem of education, we have to fix the minds of our children,” he added.
Abrams stressed that African Guyanese children have to understand that they must take advantage of educational opportunities to succeed in a competitive. “As parents, we have to beat it into their heads that the cost of education is not cheap, “ he said.
Although parents are increasingly interested in their children’s education, Abrams said they are poorly educated to assist them with their homework. Instead, he said the parents are relying heavily on extra lessons but the children are placing no value on them.
Cuffy250, the Black-conscious organisation that organized the forum, says it has begun engaging African Guyanese youths through various activities with the aim of imbuing the values of education, culture and other positive life-skills.