Education and culture are inextricably linked
– President Granger at IDPADA-G’s General Assembly
Georgetown, Guyana – (September 22, 2019)
President David Granger, this afternoon, attended the International Decade for People of African Descent- Guyana’s (IDPADA-G) second Annual General Assembly held at the Guyana Industrial Training Centre (GITC), Woolford Avenue where he said education and culture are inextricably linked.
The President said education extends beyond the classroom and involves peoples’ histories, race, religion and economic, political and social relations.
“Culture, in turn, can impact on the values of education and the way it is organized and taught,” he said noting that education prepares people for social integration and cannot be divorced from its cultural context.
The President said the United Nations designated ‘Decade’ provides a unique opportunity for African-Guyanese to concentrate their collective experiences and energies to bequeath an enduring legacy to future generations.
“It is difficult for the extremely poor to be treated, to be regarded, to be perceived as equals. Most poor people are the children of poor people and it is likely that their children will be poor also. Education is essential if the cycle of ‘hereditary poverty’ is to be broken,” President Granger said.
President Granger, since 1st August 2019, has repeatedly said Government will restore free education from nursery to university during the Decade of Development.
The Head of State told attendees that education has been one of the outstanding contributions of African-Guyanese to the nation. “Education, next to economic liberation, was the greatest gift of Emancipation. African-Guyanese embraced education as a means of providing a better life for themselves, their families and future generations. They supported the establishment of social institutions for education and religious instruction, including by providing lands for the establishment of churches and schools.”
He said African-Guyanese were pioneers in providing educational opportunities during the last century while naming Norman Cameron, an educationist, essayist, mathematician, historian and dramatist who established his own school – the Guianese Academy. The Costello brothers – Austin, Cosmo and Joseph – established the Tutorial High School which provided education for children of low-income parents among others.
The President said access to education created opportunities for the professional development of African-Guyanese. Their presence increased – in public education, public administration, public health, public security and public information – as a result of the educational opportunities.
“Emancipated Africans employed their education to re-construct their world. Education was the gateway to their entry into every field of human endeavour and national life. The African-Guyanese contribution to education played an important part in national integration and should be sustained not supplanted,” the President said.
The United Nations Programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent which began on the 1st January 2015 and will end on 31st December 2024 emphasises the importance of culture.
One of the Decade’s objectives is to “… promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies.”
“Education and culture are connected inextricably. Education prepares people to live in, and adapt to, society; preserves and transmits cultural knowledge, skills and values and propagates cultural beliefs, customs, mores, traditions, symbols and values,” President Granger said.
He explained that the history of humanity is the history of interactions noting that conquest, travel and migration have exposed people to different cultures. Education has been transformed through these contacts.
The history of Guyana is one of interactions among various peoples and their cultures. These cultures have added to our cultural diversity and, in turn, have impacted on education.
“Language reflects the influence of this diversity. Richard Allsopp pointed to the linguistic contribution of these groups, exemplified in the everyday use of words and expressions which, typically, are Guyanese or creolese – paal, rod, koker and stelling (Dutch); bateau (French), kwe-kwe, fu-fu, metemgee (African), dharoo (Indian) and benab, matapee and warishi (Amerindian). Other expressions – such as ‘eye-pass’, ‘cut-eye’; ‘hard-ears’ and ‘suck-teeth’ – are typical creolese,” President Granger said.
The Head of State said the British had a great impact on the public education system. The influence of which is evident through the schools they established, the curricula, uniforms, discipline and the organization of the school year which coincided with the Anglo-
Christian school year with its Easter and Christmas terms. “You cannot separate education from the cultural experience,” he declared adding that culture and education
interact in the classrooms which, in many schools, consist of a constellation of ethnicities – Africans, Amerindians, Chinese, Indians, Portuguese and persons of mixed ancestry and religious denominations such as Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Rastafarians.
Each cultural group has its own customs, dress, festivals, food, holy days and traditions. The President said schooling exposes Guyanese children to these varied influences.
“I recall, also, that the typical Muslim masjid had a Madrasa – a room for teaching children. The Hindu mandir, also, had a school. Christian, Hindu and Islamic schools are today once again being established, among other things, to propagate certain cultural codes. When we speak of education, we are not speaking of a valueless phenomenon. Values are already embedded in those schools,” the President said.
Meanwhile, the President said Guyanese history has been marked by five movements – emancipation, village, political, labour and cultural. He said some aspects of the cultural movement have been ignored and called on IDPADA-G to continue to pay attention to the cultural movement because it is inseparable from education.
“Education is not about pouring water into an empty vessel. It is about inculcating certain values and standards,” President Granger stated adding that the cultural revolution is what defines Guyanese. “This movement created a foundation on which the present nation is built,” the President said.
President Granger also called on IDPADA-G to help people to understand that there is no cultural vacuum, there is no void, nor backwardness but instead “a rich culture”.
The Head of State reminded that the ‘International Decade’ was conceived and planned to remedy the legacy of discrimination, disempowerment and dispossession caused by the Trans-Atlantic trade and the enslavement of persons of African descent – identified education as an important vehicle for empowering persons of African descent.
“The ‘International Decade’ would have failed in its mission if it tried to separate education from culture. Education is the principal means through which culture is propagated and preserved. Culture, in turn, shapes educational development,” the President stated.
The President said his Government will place special emphasis on education during the launch of the forthcoming Decade of Development: 2020-2029. He said the Decade aims inter alia, at enforcing the constitutional entitlement of every Guyanese child to free university education; ensuring a first-class educational system, one which would ensure that: ‘every child [has a place] in school’ and that there is ‘a school in every village’; enabling every child to attend and stay in school, through expanding of initiatives such as the Public Education Transport Services (PETS) and the national schools’ feeding programme; extending regional and hinterland educational development; and encouraging the involvement of communities and cultural and social organizations in education.
The President also announced that Government will construct A Grade secondary schools across the ten Administrative Regions to ensure that Guyanese children have access to quality education wherever they reside.
“This Assembly could do well to preserve that precious legacy of education which was bequeathed by the African-Guyanese forefathers. It would be a most fitting tribute and an enduring monument to the International Decade for People of Africa,” President Granger stated.