Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday accused the governing coalition of stealing his People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) idea to offer free university education if it wins the next general elections.
A day after Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo told Essequibo Coast residents that he and President David Granger were examining the possibility of scrapping tuition fees for attending the University of Guyana, Jagdeo said he had first hinted that the PPP had been preparing to announce a major education initiative.
“Suddenly, Nagamootoo, he is exploring the same thing. Nagamootoo, now, latches on to this here and says we are exploring free university education. They had a chance…,” Jagdeo said, adding that President David Granger broke his promises to university students.
He said the idea had been floated several months ago at a PPP manifesto consultation and the party’s presidential candidate, Irfan Ali has been floating the idea at a number of community meetings. “Last week I said we are discussing an exciting new package for university students then our presidential candidate at some of his meetings said we are costing now what it will take to deliver free university education in some time in the future,” he said.
Additionally, Jagdeo said the PPP has promised that an additional 20,000 persons would have Online access to university education.
The PPP General Secretary said Nagamootoo seized the opportunity on the Essequibo Coast to project himself as Granger’s running mate for the next general elections although the Alliance For Change has not yet decided who that person would be. AFC Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan has publicly expressed an interest in the number two spot.
The Desmond Hoyte administration had agreed with the World Bank to introduce tuition fees at the University of Guyana, but that measure had been shelved until after the 1992 elections. When the PPP won those elections, they went ahead with the proposal in 1994 and also established the Student Loan Agency of the Ministry of Finance.
At one time, the tuition fees for most academic programmes had remained stagnant at GYD$127,000 per academic year, while operational costs skyrocketed and salaries remained depressed.
Tuition fees were eventually increased and new charges were introduced in recent years to help the more than 50-year old tertiary institution stay afloat.