President David Granger on Sunday said his administration was seeking to tackle youth unemployment by pushing mainly technical-vocational education, even as he called on non-governmental organisations to gather solid information on socioeconomic problems with the aim of finding concrete solutions.
“It is for this reason that a lot of emphasis is being placed on education, particularly technical and vocational education, and this is a means of building capacity of getting young people into the world of work, particularly the people who are now being described as NEET- that is young persons who are Not in Education Employment or Training,” he said.
Addressing the opening of the Cuffy250’s annual State of the African Guyanese community forum, the Guyanese leader issued a stirring appeal to the more than 100 attendees to stop denying that problems exist and instead be part of the solution. “There are problems and we should not deny that there are problems because if we deny that there are problems we would never arrive at the correct solutions,” he said. Among those problems, he said, is a dropout rate of seven students daily of which five are from public schools. In 2016-2017, 2,669 students dropped out from schools.
In the past, the more than three-year old coalition-led administration had been accused of not keeping its election campaign promise of creating jobs. Months later, Granger had said that youths should find ways of creating their own jobs to reduce unemployment, a position he reiterated on Sunday.
He noted that Guyana’s total unemployment rate is 12 percent of which 21 percent or 16,000 are youths.
“Unemployment, high as it is, it is being reduced through the promotion of self-employment and I am convinced that most of the young people, if given the training and opportunity, want to work and we must help them with the training and with the resources and the opportunity,” he said. He noted that more than 400 community projects worth GY$3.7 billion are being financed under the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development Project, Community Organised for Restoring the Environment, Amerindian Development Fund and the Basic Needs Trust Fund. Those are in addition to the Linden Enterprise Network, Micro and Small Enterprise Development and the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service that have together received GY$1.2 billion in grants and loans for the benefit of 3,000 young entrepreneurs including start-up businesses.
The University of Guyana recently announced that it was about to work closely with technical-vocational educational institutions such as the Guyana Industrial Training Centre and the Government Technical Institute to train workers for the emerging oil and gas sector.
The President said the Essequibo Technical Institute, Leonora Technical and Vocational Training Centre, Guyana Industrial Training Centre, Government Technical Institute, Carnegie School of Home Economics, Mahaicony Technical and Vocational Training Centre, New Amsterdam Technical Institute, Corentyne Industrial Training Centre, Linden Technical Institute have a combined enrollment of 3,776 students, but the number of such training institutions was insufficient.
“We need to expand the number of training centres and institutes so that more persons who are not Not in Employment, Education or Training could be inducted into these centres and institutes so that they could enter the world of work and not remain unemployed,” he told the comparatively poorly attended event.
He announced that 42 schools are expected to have practical instruction workshops by 2020 to back-up those that already have Practical Instruction Centres and Departments.
“Robust efforts”, he said, were being made to reduce school absenteeism and improve attendance mainly at public schools. With the provision of 1,111 bicycles, 27 buses and nine boats to transport children to and from schools, he said more children were attending schools free of charge courtesy of civil society and businesses. “More children are now going to school and in some cases children who are spending over forty thousand dollars a month to get to school…so those buses and the joint action by civil society and government have been able to get more children in school but also to put millions of dollars back into the households so parents don’t have to spend the money on transportation,” he said.
The President begged attendees, religious organisations and civic organisations to work together to solve problems that affect mainly young Guyanese instead of engaging in “denialism”. “There have been interventions, not by denying the capability of Guyanese to respond, not by saying that they don’t have any sort of cultural roots or self-esteem but by helping to give them tools, particularly young people, to enable them to become self-reliant, to enable them to develop their self-esteem so there is no culture of blindness.
“I fact, there is a deep cultural perception that once they are given the assistance, they can see the way forward. There is no dumping of the emancipation spirit and they know, too, that they are friends in the community; they are not sinners who are trying to keep them down because of their race but they just want a hands-up to help them to enter the world of work,” he said.
Highlighting the revival of local democracy with the holding of periodic Local Government Elections since 2016 and the creation of more towns- Lethem, Mabaruma, Mahdia, Bartica- so that “people will get in the habit of running their own affairs”, he also cited the need for accurate information to be collected so that the right solutions to problems could be crafted.
“My brothers and sisters, I encourage you to pay attention to the disease of ‘denialism’ which is creeping into the community. Where there are problems, we must be courageous enough to admit there are problems and look for solutions and sometimes, it calls for research, it calls for data. You can’t sit down throughout the decade and write 500 articles; you have to do research. Go into the communities: What are the problems of production? What are the problems of unemployment? What are the problems of drainage and irrigation? What are the problems of land-holding? What are the problems of school-attendance and when we know those problems, we could prescribe solutions and not accuse people falsely of sinning against themselves,” he said.
Granger recently came in for harsh criticism of his pre-Emancipation Anniversary speech for upbraiding persons for always seeking a ‘raise’ instead of taking advantage of educational opportunities, and self-employment opportunities in agriculture and other sectors.