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President Irfaan Ali has announced the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government will return free university education by 2025. When the PPP/C entered government in 1992 they took away the right to free education from nursery to university.
Article 27 in the Constitution of Guyana enshrines that “Every citizen has the right to free education from nursery to university as well as at non -formal places where opportunities are provided for education and training.” The same constitution said any law or act that contravenes it shall be deemed null and void.
Having taken away a right for more than two decades the Department of Public Information has solicited feedback from citizens about the future plan to respect a right. Those quoted are welcoming of the promise.
However, trade unionist Lincoln Lewis is not impressed by the government’s promise. According to him “free universal education is a right and the government cannot cherry pick the Constitution by saying when one’s right will be respected. That right must be respected every day, in every square inch of the country, whilst living in the country, and as a citizen of the country.”
This is an eyes-pass, said the trade unionist, and it must come to an end not by 2025, but now!
Mark Benschop, criminologist, social activist and host of the Straight Up programme says the regime’s move is hypocritical. Reminding it was the PPP/C that removed education, he reflected: “just imagine the opportunities that would have been accessible to poor and ordinary young people, had they access to free education which was the case for decades under the People’s National Congress (PNC) government, that many in the PPP leadership benefitted from.”
They were so spiteful and vindictive they deprived thousands of Guyanese free education, he continued.
Zeroing on the coalition government, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), the social activist expressed disappointment that free university education was not restored. He, however, said “at the same time it’s understood because they had to clean up the mess from PPP/C’s period in office.”
Benschop is of the view that had the Opposition not embarrassed the government about failing to provide free education and promised to do so when they returned to government, the PPP/C would not have acted. Further, he said with two election petitions before the court, there is no guarantee how long the PPP/C has in government and “if they are serious about respecting free education they must make it happen in 2022, not next year, or the other year, or the other year. Now”
For the first time in Guyana’s history, this year the Government is expected to receive US$1 billion in oil revenue. Never has Guyana seen this amount of money.