Georgetown, GINA, January 20, 2014
President Donald Ramotar today commissioned a new school building, described as a world-class facility within the complex of the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre (PRRC) on Carmichael Street, Georgetown. The building was constructed by the Government of Guyana at the cost of over $50M.
Ministers, Dr. Ashni Singh and Priya Manickchand were also present at the commissioning of the building which was named the Harold B. Davis Special School in honour of Harold Davis, one of the longest serving chairmen of the PRRC’s board who passed away last year at the age of 88.
The newly commissioned $50M school at the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Center (PRRC)
Delivering the feature address, President Ramotar said that as deliberate policy, one of the main objectives of his political Party and Government is to lift the quality of life of all Guyanese. This is demonstrated by the fact that Guyana is one of the few, if not the only, Caribbean country, that dedicates approximately 30 percent of its national budget to the social sector.
“The most important factor for our development is not only the natural resources that we have…the most important factor for development is our people, that is why we are constantly striving to improve the human capital of our country,” the Head of State said.
President Donald Ramotar being assisted by a student to perform the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to officially commission the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Center’s new facility
He explained that resources in Guyana are not unlimited and there is always a struggle to meet competing demands and making tough decisions on what should be considered priorities.
Nevertheless, a lot of emphasis has been placed on education over the years, because it has been proven that some of the most developed countries are not necessarily those with the most natural resources, but the most educated population.
In terms of training, the President informed that through the Ministry of Labour’s Board of Industrial Training (BIT), opportunities are created for young people who for various reasons, were not able to complete their secondary education.
Through this programme, life skills and vocational training are provided free of cost, and many of the beneficiaries of this programme have gone on to acquire higher education while others ventured out into small businesses.
President Donald Ramotar and widow of the late Harold B. Davis, Maylene Davis at the unveiling of the plaque naming the school in honour of her late husband
President Ramotar said that the PRRC facility is extremely important because it will be addressing the needs of a category of people who are sometimes seen as disadvantaged; however, he noted that this should by no means hinder them from reaching their full potential.
He encouraged the use of technology to make more effective, the delivery of education to children with special needs, and assured of his Government’s full and continued support towards the PRRC.
“Science and technology has moved tremendously over a fairly short period of time and it is continuing to develop and change people’s lives in maybe fundamental ways, the most important thing is to make it accessible to the ordinary man; it should not remain only for the benefit of those who can afford it,” the President said.
President Donald Ramotar and Ministers Dr. Ashni Singh and Priya Manickchand being given a tour of the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Center’s new building
Meanwhile, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, said that this symbolic commissioning will help the Government and the country as a whole to advance its cause. She reminded of the popular saying that the character of a nation can be judged by the way the most vulnerable are treated.
She spoke of the different vulnerable groups (senior citizens, women, children and the differently-abled) and the measures that the Government has put in place over the years to not only address this situation, but to as far as possible, remove the vulnerabilities that make them a weaker population.
“Sometimes because we live from day to day, we do not see the difference and the changes that are being made…we as a Government understand what a vulnerable population is, and we understand what needs to be done to remove those vulnerabilities. We have committed, year after year, manifesto after manifesto to removing those vulnerabilities, and if you check on us you will see that we have met those promises that we have made…we are allowing every person, old young and/or disabled to be able to give of their best,” the Education Minister stated.
Finance Minister, Dr. Singh in his remarks said that the commissioning represents an outstanding example of partnership in pursuing mutual social objectives. He explained that the Government has always expressed a keen interest in collaborating with like-minded individuals or organisations.
He said it is the firm conviction of the government that differently-abled people can make a significant contribution to the country’s development and as such, it is committed to providing the necessary investments, work with partners and continue to pursue initiatives to uplift the quality of life of every citizen.
The PRRC was originally established by the Health Ministry in January 1967 as the polio centre. At that time, it provided rehabilitative services for children who had suffered residual paralysis following the 1960 and 1964 epidemics.
In 1991, the centre was de-linked from the Ministry in an effort to improve resource acquisition so as to expand it range of services. It is now managed by a voluntary management board of directors. However, the Government provides an annual subvention and professional staff while the board raises funds both locally and abroad.
The School’s Head Teacher, Anand Mangru stated that the idea for the new school initiated when former president Bharrat Jagdeo visited the institution during his last term in Office. At that time, apart from the issue of adequate spacing, teachers, nurses and aides were experiencing great difficulty in moving the children around as a result of the unavailability of wheelchair ramps.
This new facility, he said, is far more conducive to cater to the needs of children with disabilities. At present, the school provides for resident and non-resident children with seven teachers, two aides and 65 students.
The children, most of whom have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, are being taught mathematics (numeracy), science, social studies, language arts (identifying speech patterns etc), information technology, art and craft, agriculture science and music and movement.
The school also has an impressive extra-curricular programme which includes: swimming, horseback riding, sports, and tours.
Life skills and vocational training is also offered, to this end, the Caribbean Development Bank through the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF), has already approved funds to construct another facility to make possible this aspect.