UG students in dark over spending of millions of dollars

Last Updated on Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 13:34 by Denis Chabrol

University of Guyana (UG) students left a meeting Monday afternoon still unclear how GYD$118 million of the GYD$377 million in Facilities Fees have so far been spent on improving the conditions at the Turkeyen Campus, but heard of  future plans .

UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith announced that a Town Hall meeting would be held with students in December, 2016 to discuss spending of cash from the Facilities Fees that have been collected so far. Each student is required to pay an additional GYD$50,000 per academic year to UG to help with infrastructural maintenance and improvement.

Of the more than ten questions and comments posed, many students asked Griffith and other members of the institution’s administration to account for the spending of the miscellaneous Facilities Fees. In response to that, the Bursar Holda Poonai and the Facilities Manager Mr Khudu (one name) were asked by the Vice Chancellor to brief students on spending and plans for the university.

In her remarks, Poonai stated that for the 2014-2015 academic year UG had collected  to date GYD$377M in Facility Fees. That, she said is separate from the 2016-2017 academic year fees, and so far GYD$118M was spent.

The Bursar, however, failed to give account of what this amount of money was spent on. This was pointed out by several students, but there was no answer given. Instead, both Poonai and the Vice Chancellor promised to hold a meeting at a later date to discuss spending accounts.

Among the projects, listed by Poonai, to be undertaken on students’ behalf with the remaining GYD$252M are the provision of computers for five faculty labs- which is in excess of GYD$35 million- purchasing of a new generator for the Information Communications Technology (ICT) block so students will no longer experience blackouts; a water a filtration system which will eventually improve water that is being supplied to the toilet facility; the purchasing fans for the Learning Resource Centre; lab equipment and supplies for the physics labs; and the expansion of the subscription base for international agencies to allow students to benefit from e-learning items. Most of the projects listed are likely to be implemented in the next semester.

Meanwhile, in his turn, Khudu said projects that are almost or currently underway at the university include the construction of a student facilities building, for students to engage in sports, recreation and health activities. This he said he is optimistic will be in place before end of 2016. Kudu also mentioned the recently concluded total rewiring of the old wing of the UG Library, which will make way for larger air conditioners, and students will be able to plug in their laptops and work from the library. He also made mention of the improvement of the fibre optics system around campus, with which students will have access to WiFi, and the facilities body is also working on new PA systems for George Walcott Lecture Theatre, Education Lecture Theatre, Learning Resource Centre, and the Cheddi Jagan Building. This, Khudu said he is hoping will be executed in the next two weeks or so.

In addition to the spending of facilities fees, another student raised the issue of the derelict Communications Studies building, which has been in a deplorable condition for years. In response to this, the VC promised that if financial help is not forthcoming from the government, he himself has a plan to solicit funds towards the repair of the lab.

Meanwhile, the Vice Chancellor warned students against venting their university concerns on social media, since it is pulling down the University’s image.

“Part of being the best advocate is, do not go on Facebook and Twitter and say things that you may think make you feel good because you are pulling down the image of the university.

Don’t send emails around that make you feel good, the ultimate outcome is you are hurting the very university of which you are a product…I want to encourage you to be the best you can be, but I also encourage you to be the best advocate for this university,” he told a meeting he had with students on Monday at the George Walcott Lecture Theatre.

Instead, he proposed that they approach him or any other administrative authority, either via face to face means, email or by messaging him on his Facebook page.

During his meeting with students following their protest of the sudden 5% fee increase, the VC committed to improving the communication system between the administration and student representatives by having frequent meetings to discuss pressing issues. He then opened the floor for questions and comments (not related to the soon to be resolved fee adjustment issue) from students.

Despite being given a chance to pose questions and comments, a few students’ concerns were not fully addressed by the administrative representatives present at the meeting, and there were murmurs of dissatisfaction to be heard all around.