History of the University of Guyana, 1989-1990
History This Week
By Arlene Munro
Stabroek News
April 21, 2005

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In the final year of the decade, 1989-1990, the Vice-Chancellor reported that that year in the history of the University of Guyana could have been designated "Year of Examination and Assess-ment." This article will attempt to examine the progress made by the university during that year. It will focus on the Faculties of Arts, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Health Sciences.

According to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Al Creighton, this was a "problematic and difficult year." He reported that members of the faculty were not happy. Some felt that prevailing national conditions would make it impossible to stave off collapse.

The number of graduating students from the Faculty of Arts increased by 200% compared with the previous year, 1989. The 1990 Graduating Class of 42 included 22 English, 4 Geography, 7 History, 1 Mathematics and 8 Modern Languages students.

There was concern about the low number of students applying to study Modern Languages, especially French and Portuguese. The faculty tried to solve this problem by teaching French and Spanish to GCE 'A' Level candidates in the Modern Languages Department and encouraging them to register for the degree programme. It promoted programmes on career opportunities in school. It also started an ongoing weekly radio programme to promote language (El Mundo Latino-Americano). It also participated in Modern Languages Week events and Alliance Francaise beginners' classes.

The Geography Depart-ment designed a new structure to allow students without a GCE/CXC pass in the subject to start with beginners' Geography (GEO 100) and then move into the degree programme. A similar structure was designed for French and Spanish. A one-year programme for Diplomas in Arts from the Burrowes' School of Art, leading to the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art, was designed.

The postgraduate Diploma programme in Translation was approved by the Faculty Board this year. The translation programme was designed for the French and Spanish programmes.

Students achieved many awards during the year 1989-1990. Best graduating student, David Granger, attained a perfect score of 4.0 in History and received the President's medal. He also won the second prize in the Organisation of American States International Essay Competition. Terrence Simmons (History) and Roslyn Baichoo (Law) won Best Speaker Individual titles at the University of the Virgin Islands, St Thomas, when they participated in the Regional Inter-Universities Debating Champions Competition. Corinne Sparman a final-year drama student, won the NAPA Award for Best New Comer in Theatre for 1989. Paloma Mohammed, a communications student, won the TAA Award for writing the Best Musical Drama.

The Faculty of Arts staff also received high honours. Martin Carter, a lecturer in the Division of Creative Arts, was the winner of the Guyana Prize for Poetry in 1989. Another member won the NAPA Best Director Award for 1989. Two other faculty members won Fellowships for Research. Professor Mary Noel Menezes received a Bursary from the Governors of the Trust of London House and William Goodenough House, London. Dr Winston McGowan visited the United States as a USUS Senior Fullbright Fellow in order to research the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The University of Guyana History Society launched the Guyana Historical Journal.

The University of Guyana History Society also published eight issues of the History Gazette containing articles on Guyana's History. Twelve faculty members produced 28 publications, of which 13 were international. The Amerindian Research Unit published Occpubaru.

Fourteen Faculty of Arts' seminars were held during the year and 32 papers were presented here and at Conferences abroad. Twelve faculty members were engaged in research projects, including those in the Amerindian Research Unit.

A students' art exhibition was held in addition to two recitals of work by Guyana Prize judges and prize-winners, an international exhibition by the Professor of Art, and Radio and television broadcasts. Dr Doris Rogers exhibited her work at the Armour J. Blackburn Centre on the campus of Howard University, USA in July-August. She also held an exhibition with the Guyana Women Artists' Association at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

A modern languages lecturer was appointed to the position of Assistant Chief Examiner in Spanish for the Caribbean Examination Council. Mrs Jean Small was elected President of the Alliance Francaise of Guyana for the year 1989-1990. Ms Carmen Same was responsible for the launching of the Jose Marti Group on 18 March 1990.

The University of Guyana participated in a joint film project with the University of the West Indies. Their intention was to film Wilson Harris' book, Guyana Quartet.

The students were involved in many activities. Final-year students of Spanish travelled to Cuba for exposure to a Spanish language community. In 1989/90 a third-year student returned after a one-year residency in France and completed her degree in French and Portuguese. The faculty secured a place for another student who had just completed a degree in French and Spanish to spend the year 1990/91 in France.

The faculty completed the 1988/89 University Debating contests which had been interrupted by the 1989 strike. The winners were Joel McAllister, Dennis Gill and Coleen Mack. Terrence Simmons was the Series Best Debater. The University Drama Competition was also mounted by the faculty. The Best Production was Amen Corner, directed by Corinne Sparman.

During the year, three members of the faculty spent the year in postgraduate study at the University of Essex. They returned at the end of the academic year. Two others who had done postgraduate work at other universities also returned.

Postgraduate programmes were affected during the year. The M.A. History Programme was under threat. The faculty decided to stop offering the MA Geography Programme and to terminate plans for a M.Phil in English.

There was a serious crisis of funding which affected the bursary. Up to the end of the academic year 1989/90 the faculty was told that it could not spend on several essential items. The bursary needed to be more sensitive to the priorities of an academic institution. Other problems were unsuitable conditions, inefficient infrastructure, and lack of qualified staff. In addition, there were costly delays in letters of appointment and in the making of payments due to them.

In the Faculty of Natural Sciences significant developments took place. The number of students who registered in this faculty increased. The department acquired a UPS costing US$100 to be used with its two micro-computers. The dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences drafted a proposal pertaining to the establishment of a university teaching/research environmental unit which would be located on campus. The unit would be instrumental in "linking the academic with the field work..."

A Memorandum Of Understanding was drafted between the University of Utrecht and the University of Guyana. The dean stated: "It was appreciated that this sort of collaboration can lead to openings to the wider university community beyond the confines of the Department of Biology which at the moment handles the Tropenbos programme."

In the1989/90 academic year a new departmental structure was implemented in the Faculty of Health Sciences. All the programmes in the faculty, particularly the Radiography and the Environmental Health Officers, were offered and the first batch of medical students began the first year of their two-year internship. In the new departmental structure the faculty had four departments, namely, Clinical Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Morphological Sciences and Public Health.

Mrs P Ragobeer and Dr E Cummings were two new staff members who were recruited during the year. The faculty continued to depend on a large number of part-time staff for teaching. Cuban teachers gave outstanding service in the medical programme. The full-time staff performed very well. Dr Claudette Harry, the Director of Medical Programme, and Dr Oswald Simon resigned during the academic year.

The laboratory staff worked hard in spite of the presence of a single laboratory. The Venezuelan building contractors in August started working on the Faculty of Health Sciences building. This was made possible by the Venezuelan and Guyana governments. The faculty was named a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for the Training of Allied Health Personnel.

In all the programmes the pass rate was above eighty-five per cent. The number of applicants to all the programmes was high with the exception of the Radiography and Environmental Health. There was a fifty per cent increase in applications for Pharmacy and Medical Technology. The first part of the internship period for the MBBS students went smoothly. Links were made by the faculty with the universities of Texas and St Louis, and universities in Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname.

Dr Clarence Charles made a presentation at the National Medical Seminar, UG-GAHEF, in November 1989. He also participated in the Staff Conference of the Ministry of Health, in the Guyana Medical Association Meeting in June 1990 and presented a paper in Martinique. He visited the hospital attached to the Anton De Kom University, Suriname in November 1989 and attended a meeting of the Commonwealth Caribbean Medical Research Council in April 1990 in Antigua.

The medical programme received 70 books for use in the preclinical sciences department. The vice-chancellor promised to make books available to medical students through the university bookstore. Drs Diana Ross and Callado prepared teaching material in embryology and histology to be used by the medical students and Medex. The medical health programme had twelve visiting lecturers three from Trinidad, one from Barbados, one from West Germany, five from the United States of America, and two from Canada.

Five students, including one who was repeating, were registered as medical students for the first-year programmes. Six students were registered in the Environmental Health Officers' Diploma programme for the first year. Three students were registered for the second year and one for the third-year programme.

In the Department of Morphological Sciences 21 students registered in the first-year class. Five students registered in the second-year class. There was an increase in registration for the medical technology programme.

In spite of the financial problems, which the University of Guyana was facing, the faculties continued to perform and produce. New journals were published. Art exhibitions were held. Staff continued their research and study programmes locally and overseas. They continued to offer public service and to present papers at seminars and conferences. The first batch of medical students began their period of internship.

In the second instalment of this article I will continue to examine the activities of the university during the academic year 1989/90.

(Part 2)

This is the final part in a series of articles on the history of the University of Guyana in the 1980s. It will focus on the Faculties of Education, Agriculture and Social Sciences as well as the University Library for the academic year 1989-1990.

The Department of Educational Research and Development of the Faculty of Education closed during this year. There were no admissions at the Bachelor of Education level in the academic year, 1989-1990. However, thirty-one students enrolled for the Diploma in Education programme. Staff members tried to restructure the Bachelor of Education programme for the new academic year.

There was a decrease in the number of full-time staff available for teaching. The faculty had only nine full-time staff. Some of the staff went abroad to study. For example, Mrs Thelsea Garnett received an award to pursue the Master's Degree in Home Economics Education at Florida International University. Mr. Emmamuddin Hoosein went to Ohio State University to pursue doctoral studies.

David Cox returned to his teaching post after completing his sabbatical leave. Mr Gocool Boodhoo took his sabbatical leave in January. Dr. Alan Persico took a three-month IDB/UNIGUY internship at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom from October to December 1989. Marcel Lameral, a Visiting Professor from Canada, joined the staff and served in the Department of Foundations and Administration. This arrangement was made possible by an IDB/UNIGUY arrangement.

The physical conditions of the work environment were unacceptable. Staff members were affected by the leaking roofs in the main buildings. Furniture, stencils and teaching materials were damaged. An unsuccessful attempt was made to renovate the staff lounge.

Faculty members continued to give public service. They worked with National Subject Committees pertaining to CXC and the National Fourth Form Achievement Test. They sat on Committees of the Caribbean Examinations Council, Modern Languages Association of America, Caribbean Association of Home Economics Education, and the Guyana Teachers' Union.

The faculty welcomed staff such as Donna Douglas-Rodney, Natalie Singh, Niebert Paul, Sharon Thomas, and Juliet Lekhraj. Staff took courses in Computer Literacy in the Faculty of Natural Sciences. Others enrolled at Critchlow Labour College, and the Government Technical Institute. The Department of Research and Development was closed.

A Teaching Clinic was held from April 7-12, 1990 in the Faculty. The theme was Curriculum Implementation in the Classroom. The Coordinator of the Clinic was M.T. Lowe. Officials from the Ministry of Education, headteachers and other senior personnel also attended the Clinic. An important part of the programme was a mini-staff development session organised by the students. In addition, seminar presentations were held in the Faculty which focused on External Assessment of Schools and on Community-based Rehabilitation.

There were significant developments in the Faculty of Education during 1989/1990. The Faculty of Education Advisory Board was launched in February 1990. The launching ceremony was chaired by Vice-Chancellor, Dr. George Walcott. The Education Consultants' Final Report was submitted. Subsequently, the Faculty attempted to implement its recommendations.

At the Eighth Meeting of Caricom Ministers Responsible for Education the Dean of the Faculty of Education discussed the major issues and other educational decisions which were under consideration. A Faculty of Education Journal was published during this year. Some of the Spanish teachers in the Faculty visited a Spanish-speaking country, Cuba, where they spent two weeks.

The Faculty of Agriculture continued to offer the full-time day and part-time evening programmes for the Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture. Sixteen persons graduated with degrees in 1990. Four graduated with passes with credit. Visiting professors and an Academic Consultant came to the Faculty. They met at nine Special Faculty Coordinating Committee Meetings to revise the curriculum of the Bachelor's Degree and the curriculum for the Postgraduate Diploma and a Master of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics.

The Faculty received valuable gifts during the academic year. It received nine pieces of agricultural machinery and equipment through the Guyana Human Resources Training and Development Programme Sub-Programme A.

Seventeen full-time members of staff and six part-time lecturers taught the Bachelor's Degree programme in Agriculture. Six cross-faculty lecturers also assisted with the programme. Two Assistant Lecturers were recruited. Dr. L.A. Simpson and Dr. M.J. Dorling joined the Faculty as Inter-American Development Bank Visiting Professors. Seven lecturers taught the Diploma in Forestry Programme. The Forestry Unit was placed under the Supervision of the Faculty of Agriculture from November 1, 1989.

Six students graduated in 1990. In the year 1989/90 the number of applications, places offered and students registered as well as actual attendance were quite low. In September 1988, seventeen persons entered the Year 1 programme. In contrast, in September 1990, five persons entered that programme.

Mr. M.S. Sadik published two articles in the Journal of Dairy Science. Ms L.L. Kelly began observations and work with the forestry students on the mangroves on the Georgetown foreshore. Dr. L.A. Simpson, Inter-American Develop-ment Bank Visiting Professor in Soil Science, presented a Conference Paper and made a Seminar Presentation at the National Agriculture Research Institute. He submitted articles for publication.

The Faculty of Technology faced several problems during the academic year 1989/1990. There was a shortage of staff, poor laboratory conditions, and a lack of textbooks in the bookshop and library. The laboratory was in the process of being refurbished. Glass louvres and furniture were stolen from the classrooms.

Mr. George Gilford joined the Faculty as an Industrial Liaison Officer. Dr. Olanrewsju, M. Mitchell, Jerry Lochan, M. Sears, H. Siddique, A. Simpoulous, and M. Komaragin joined the faculty also. This additional staff greatly assisted the Faculty.

The Department of Civil and Electrical Engineering revised their diploma and degree programmes.

The academic year 1989/1990 began with a controversy in the Faculty of Social Sciences about the preliminary reports of the Cambridge Education Consultants. The Faculty after much discussion accepted thirty of the thirty-two recommendations of the Reports.

The Consortium Graduate School held a Regional Consultation on Graduate Training in the Social Sciences in the UWI/UG in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 16-17th February 1990. As a result of this Consortium a decision was made to introduce a two-year M.Sc. Degree in Development Studies, the M. Phil. programme and a three-year Ph.D programme.

During this academic year most departments depended on part-time staff due to the poor salaries offered by the University. This posed some problems to the administration. Fortunately, more teaching aids, books and journals were made available to the staff during this year.

The faculty received a visit from Sir John Boreham, Caricom Advisor on Statistical Education. He promised to ask the Commonwealth Secretariat to send a Visiting Professor to help with programme implementation.

Graduate diplomas in International Relations and Development Studies and the M. Soc. Sc. in Political Science were offered by the Faculty during this year. Thirty students registered for this programme.

The University Library experienced serious problems during the academic year 1989/90. There was "a continuation in the decline of staff morale as noted in the previous year and this affected every level of staff." The work environment became worse with the chronic malfunctioning of the air-conditioning system and electricity interruptions.

This made study difficult for the students and other users of the library. Staff were affected, especially those who worked in the short-loan and reference services. This led to strong student protests and demonstrations.

The leaking roof of the library led to the damage of books. Before the end of the academic year, however, the Inter-American Development Bank rehabilitation project on the roof began. Due to two heavy downpours of rain during the project the library was closed for six weeks. A solidarity strike was called by the Union in 1989 in which Library staff were involved.

There was a shortage of staff during the year. Only 49.7 per cent of the established positions were filled that year. Consequently, staff members were reassigned to those areas that were "critical to the functioning of the Library." Activities were decreased in some areas in order to maintain services in others. Two part-time professional librarians were recruited. There were twelve resignations, two terminations and four transfers to other University Departments. Seventeen Library Assistants and three Assistant Librarians were recruited. Of the eighteen professional positions on the establishment only five were filled with professionally trained staff. Therefore, in-house training programmes and proficiency tests for the promotion of non-professional staff were kept at a bare minimum. Some members of staff attended courses at the University of Guyana, Critchlow Labour College, and Adult Education Association. One member of staff received a Commonwealth Scholarship Award. Another one returned after completing a postgraduate training programme at Sheffield University. Marilyn Cox and Yvonne Lancaster were appointed to the positions of Deputy University Librarian and Head, Readers' Services Division respectively.

The University Library received financial assistance during the year. The Inter-American Development bank provided US$123,555.11 for books and catalogue cards. It provided US$80,383.43 for current journals and US$97,381.53 for back issues of journals.

Owing to the lack of staff the Division of Humanities and the Science and Technology Serials Section remained closed for periods during the day and in the evenings. The Division experienced power cuts and the air-conditioning systems failed to work, as they should. There was a shortage of new publications in the general library, which led to increased demands. The outstanding achievement of the Division was the massive exercise undertaken in removing the journals in Science & Technology to the third floor of the old building. Journals in the Humanities and Education Divisions were moved to the second floor of the extension. The United Nations collection was removed to the first floor of the extension.

Production was low in the Technical Services Division due to the fact that the Division lacked a Head of Department and senior members of staff. The Acquisitions Department ordered books and journals under the Inter-American Development Bank project and resuscitated its Gifts and Exchange programme.

Refresher training sessions were conducted for senior staff members of the Cataloguing Department who were supposed to undertake specified hours weekly in the Department. Staff members were so busy in their respective areas that they were unable to put in the required time. The Department was also affected by power cuts, which led to loss of hours of work as some staff found that the natural light was inadequate.

The Acquisitions Department ordered US$122,176.04 worth of books and US$177,764.96 for current and back issues, of journals. The law subject area was the only one for which current and back issues of journals arrived. The Department conducted a clearing exercise in which unwanted books and journals which had accumulated over the years were removed. The Department also acquired the diary and papers of the Rev. John Smith, a collection of paintings, prints and rare books presented by President Desmond Hoyte, J.E. Alexander's Transatlantic Sketches, Vols 1 & 2, 1833, J.H. Bernau's Missionary Labours in British Guiana, E.F. Im Thurn's Among the Indians of Guyana, private papers of the late Dr. A.J. Seymour, a collection of books and documents on Grenada, and an extensive collection of the works of the major poets of the Caribbean. The Library also received books from the British Council, the United States Information Service, the Netherlands government, the Canadian government, and several Embassies and High Commissions.

The Caribbean Research Library operated without a Head but under an Assistant Librarian. This Division also was affected by a shortage of staff. A National Service pioneer assisted in manning the service point. The Caribbean Research Library received many gifts and local purchases were also made. The Acquisitions Department processed the books so quickly that the few staff in Caribbean Research Library were unable to deal with all of them and there was a backlog. During the year this Division received the following visitors: President Desmond Hoyte, the Vice-Rector of the University of Utrecht and the Tropenbos team, a Team of British Broadcasting Corporation photographers working on a documentary, and the Commonwealth Understanding Fellows. As usual the staff of the University Library researched issues, presented lectures and published papers and articles in journals. The librarians included Jean Craigwell, Marilyn Cox, Yvonne Lancaster, Yvonne Stephenson, and Gloria Cummings. They attended conferences and seminars and presented papers.

The decade of the 1980s presented many challenges to the University of Guyana. In spite of the shortage of foreign currency and the deteriorating conditions, the staff members still kept their morale and continued to research, publish and teach. Students studied and excelled in the environment. In addition, there were new developments such as the introduction of the medical programme and the construction of the Health Faculty building. With the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank, the University was able to implement some projects. The 1980s was indeed a decade of struggle, improvisation, and innovation.