National Independent Party (NIP) Presidential Candidate Saphier Hussain says his party will work to grant the University of Guyana (UG) administrative and financial autonomy if it is voted into the National Assembly in the May 11th elections.
Speaking to UG students in the George Walcott Lecture Thursday afternoon during a series of engagements between political parties and students, Hussain said such an endeavor will entail either amending the UG Act, which sets out how the institution is to be run, or removing the institution from under the Act altogether.
Unlike the interaction with the main opposition coalition’s presidential candidate, David Granger, the rounds with Saphier and the leaders of two small political parties was poorly attended.
Section 13 of the Act dictates that the Council of the University ought to consist of 26 members.
Section 13 (2) (f) requires that one of those members be a “representative from the Ministry of Education and Cultural Development and one (1) from the Ministry of Finance,” while Section 13 (2) (h) stipulates that one (1) be “nominated by the political party in office.”
Additionally, while Section 13 (2) (j) allows “four persons to be nominated by non-government organizations,” it demands that the Minister’s opinion be satisfied that such entities be “most representative of the interests of women, farmers, Amerindians and business.”
Further, Section 13 (2) (l) allows “three (3) persons to be appointed by the Minister who, in the Minister’s opinion, can contribute significantly to the University in the field of medicine and law. Finally, Section 13 (4) avails the Minister, at his/her pleasure, the power to remove any member s/he has appointed.
Suffice to say, the Act gives the Minister significant powers to appoint and/or remove members from the Council of the university.
Husain believes that UG’s development has suffered to some extent due to differences between government-approved Council members and those appointed by the university’s internal organs – its unions, academic bodies, and student society – who may not be inclined to support government positions.
He also believes that the university, like other autonomous bodies, must be financed through a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund, as opposed to remaining dependent on government for a yearly appropriation of funds. Husain told students that the university should be allowed to prepare its own budget to be sent to the National Assembly for approval, and argued that a coupling of financial and administrative autonomy will set the university on the right path to achieve the aims laid down in Section 4, among which is to “provide a place of education…of a standard required and expected of a university of the highest standard.”
Husain also expressed intentions to fight for the establishment of a Faculty of Theology at UG, as well as a cricket academy which would offer scholarships to promising young talent.
He also promised to work toward the establishment of a law school in Guyana as it would allow a more convenience to LLB graduates from UG who want to pursue a Legal Education Certificate (LEC) at home, as opposed having to go to Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago.
The same was promised by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) + Alliance for Change (AFC) presidential hopeful David Granger when he met with students on Wednesday. Ganger said such a school would be established in five (5) years if the coalition wins the Executive.
Also meeting with students were The United Force (TUF) representatives Melissa Nadir and Victor Alleyne, and Mark Benschop of the The Independent Party (TIP). All three parties admitted that they do not expect to win the Executive reins of government in these elections. Nadir, for one, says she “knows for a fact” that the Executive is unattainable in these elections, but believes this can be a reality in ten years.
Meanwhile, Husain pointed to instances where he has challenged, successfully so, government in court and promised that if he is given one seat in the National Assembly in these elections he can make “a fighting contribution to this country.”