Ministry of Education, Guyana

Friday, 16 October 2015 08:11

Education Rally Speech 2015

Last week, the government launched the National Tree Planting Day Initiative, with His Excellency, President David Granger stressing the need for a system of sustainable development in which reforestation is a critical component.

The Roman poet Caecilius Statius said, in describing another Roman citizen, "He plants trees to benefit the next generation."DSC 0122

As we close off Education Month, as we most recently did Indigenous Heritage Month, and as we are still only a week a from the National Tree Planting Day initiative, I invite you to join me in reflection on a cluster of interrelated things – trees, children, education, growth.

All of you gathered here today are part of a system the core purpose of which is to plant a tree to benefit the next generation – that tree is education, and it is our responsibility to ensure it grows and blossoms within each and every child.

Special Needs Education

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of commissioning a Creative Space building for the United Women for Special Children, an NGO that has been at the forefront of special needs education for almost thirty years.

What I was moved to see were children courageous in committing to their own empowerment despite their circumstance, something that we can never value enough.

It was there that I was further impressed with the need to ensure that the aim of our education system is to serve each and every single child in Guyana, particularly those faced with severe personal challenges to learning.DSC 0020

More often than we acknowledge, sometimes those we consider the least among us are - by virtue of their courage and the sheer intensity of their personal struggle - in fact the greatest among us and as a society we owe them the best opportunity we can create.

Moreover, special needs education remains arguably the most significant indicator of overall sector development, by virtue of its inherent challenges. Once it is we can confidently say that we as society have significantly created a system that satisfies our special education needs, the likelihood is that the rest of the education system would have been improved to a satisfactory level as well.

Education, Culture and the Environment

Now, it is imperative that we use the education system to cultivate in our children two fundamental qualities that I believe will be critical to our survival as a people.

The first is a respect for each other's culture. No natural ecosystem can sustainably exist with one component excluding all others, and no human society can sustainably exist with one culture or ethnic group creating and maintaining domination over another. The very thing which has divided us over our existence as an independent, self-determined nation, -- our cultural diversity, is in fact our greatest strength and, once we are able to fix our issues, will serve us well in a world in which our survival as a small country will largely be determined by how we can interact with other people and other cultures in an environment of mutual respect and cooperation. This entails the sort of massive cultural paradigm shift that the education system will be central in undertaking. I have called before for a crusade for national reconciliation and challenged our young people to be the foremost crusaders for unity and reconciliation.

The second quality that we must seek to cultivate in our children is respect, indeed reverence, for the natural environment. Climate change is threatening to replace war as the leading source of human misery and underdevelopment in the world. The global consensus is that it is the direct result of human action. I saw a recent note which sought to highlight the scale of the problem by pointing out the fact that if the 46 billion years of the earth's existence were to be scaled down to 46 days, all of human existence would account for only 4 hours and the industrial activity that is threatening to destroy the planet only one minute. The education system must accept as a critical mandate quality education on environmental matters and the primary responsibility is ours to create such a culture.

The drought that is currently affecting the Rupununi is not discriminating does in terms of culture or ethnicity, nor can we adequately combat the effects of its root cause, climate change, if we continue to be divided as a people.

Teachers, policymakers, administrative staff, parents – I urge you to look around you, to look at the children gathered here today with us. DSC 0035This is our legacy. As we close off the activities for Education Month, and get down to the business of putting in place the policy directives we have assigned ourselves, let us recommit, for their sake, to planting the seeds of tolerance, of knowledge, of love and mutual respect. This is our sacred duty to the next generation and the generations to come.

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