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UG subvention should be increased; Law School to be established- Granger

A section pf the students who attended the forum with APNU+AFC Presidential Candidate, David Granger

The chronically cash-strapped UG needs a quadrupling of the subvention it receives from government to adequately cover its operation but , APNU+AFC Presidential candidate David Granger told students during a presentation earlier this evening.

He did not say that government, even a APNU+AFC government, could finance a four-fold increase in the subvention, though he is convinced that “it is impossible to provide the sort of funding (needed) from donors.” 

Continuing he said “it cannot come from the students…it has to come from the state.” The presentation was planned by the University of Guyana Student Society (UGSS) in the university’s George-Walcott Lecture Theatre (GWLT).

In an interview following the presentation Granger told Demerara Waves that he would only be able to give specific numbers when the coalition gets into power and becomes intimate with the state’s accounts.

In recent times, UG has encountered major difficulties paying salaries and utility bills.

He also promised to pull political appointees from the university’s Council, substituting them with academia-oriented individuals possessing the capacity and vision to improve the university. The presence of party members on the university’s Council has been a sore point for several years but tonight Granger said “We need a Council of persons committed to higher education, who will sit down and make academic decisions to make sure that this university gets what it needs …”

Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) members to the Council include former government minister Bibi Shaddick, who also serves as the university’s Pro-Chancellor, and Presidential Advisor Odinga Lumumba.

Rupert Roopnarine is among the opposition’s representatives on the Council.

Current and prospective law students will be happy to know that the APNU + AFC coalition will also seek to establish a local law school, thus enabling UG LLB graduates to pursue their Legal Education Certificates (LEC) in Guyana, as opposed to being required to go to Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) in Trinidad and Tobago.

 “I cannot say that it is something that can be achieved in the first year or two…but in the first five years…law student can look forward to completing their LEC in Guyana,” Granger said.

Currently only UG’s top graduating 25 LLB students are guaranteed entry into HWLS yearly. All others must sit the entrance examination which is very competitive as Guyanese must compete with LLB holders from all across the Caribbean. Further, as of last year, law students continue to labour under less than adequate certainty that the agreement which facilitates their automatic entry into HWLS will continue to stand.

Tonight’s engagement comes following weeks of failed attempts on the part of UGSS to get the presidential and prime ministerial candidates of the major political parties – APNU + AFC coalition and the PPP/C – to engage in a debate before UG students. 

UGSS President Joshua Griffith informed his executive earlier this week that the PPP/C has “indicated that the only debate they have committed to is the Private Sector Debate and they will be moving forward in that direction.”

The PPP/C’s apprehension to partake in such a debate is likely linked to the adverse reception its candidates sustained during a pre-elections debate at UG in 2011. Another engagement is planned for Tuesday at 14:00hrs between students and the presidential candidate of The National Independent Party (NIP), Saphier Hussain.

I would “have (had) to be a very reckless politician not to come to speak to students…especially just five days before” elections next Monday,” an enthusiastic, and often humorous Granger said to the students.

During the question and answer segment Granger was asked to explain why APNU and AFC cut amounts intended for Student Loans for part and continuing students at the university. Last year, the parties combined to cut more than $30billion from the initially $220billion 2014 budget.

He told students that while the parties were not desirous of cutting all of the amounts that were eventually taken out, some allocations they opposed, such as money intended for the National Communications Network (NCN) and the Guyana Information Agency (GINA), were “bundled” with amounts with which they approved of, such as $450million for student loans.

On the day the amount was cut, and for days following, the opposition parties continued to explain to the public that they did not want to cut the amount, but that their hands were tied. They also said that they would approve the amounts immediately if it was brought back “unbundled” from contentious line items. Several students remarked “ohhhhh, following Granger’s explanation, while one other shouted “we understand, we forgive yuh.”

Granger was also asked to explain what he planned to do to enforce the constitutional provision which speaks to free education from nursery to tertiary institutions. This is set out in Article 27 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. He noted though, that while he is in support of, and would again support free education in the manner described, the relevant Article is not enforceable in the courts