Mr. T. Williams: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Once again, I choose to invoke that clause from the prayer which states:
“so that we may deal justly, with the several causes that come before us,”
I truly mean it.
This motion, standing in my name, seeks to do as it says which is to encourage the Government of Guyana to restore this subvention that was removed or taken, thus resulting in the reduction of the College’s capacity to offer the level of education it offered across Guyana at its three campuses.
In 2002, I was introduced, in the compound of this Public Buildings, to lay a wreath at the feet of Mr. Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, an event continued by many of our political leaders and trade unionists today, I believe for good reasons and cause. When I understand the depth of his involvement and struggle for better living, working conditions for the working class, I believe that any Government’s continued support for an institution like the Critchlow Labour College sends the very strong signal to the nation that the Government is very serious about the development of our young people.
We have no doubt about the role that the Critchlow Labour College played in moulding the minds of Guyanese of all ages, races, ethnicities and moral suasion. The motion notes that two successive administrations in this country, to a point, allowed and made budgetary allocations for subsidising the cost of education offered by this institution.
Other clauses outline specifically the effect of this subvention on the lives of the young people. Over the years, the Critchlow Labour College has trained thousands of Guyanese across a very wide spectrum of academic qualifications to better themselves, their families and their country. The effect of this spending is undoubtedly very visible and effective in this country.
I understand that there are quite a few persons here, even up to the portfolio of Minister, who have passed through the College and I think that speaks well for the programme itself. As one who has benefitted from this programme and has seen thousands of Guyanese benefit from this, I have the courage to stand in this National Assembly to ask of the Opposition and Government to do just cause to this situation. I believe that there are experts on labour and education sitting in this Parliament today and who will probably take this debate to the next level and open it to realms we may all appreciate.
I wish to point out just a few of the courses that the Critchlow Labour College offers: Certificate in Industrial and Social Studies, Communication and Effective Speaking, Advanced Diploma in Project Management, Further Access to Education, Care for the Elderly, Advanced Mental Health I and II, Sewing, Project Management and Occupational Safety and Health. Over the many years that have gone by, thousands of students have written their Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) examinations and done well for themselves.
I have in my hand a first draft of the National Youth Policy and we all know that this document has been coming slowly for many years. I see specific reference is given to the development of young people and the role that education plays in their lives. Very often education is not the problem; affording it is the problem. The Critchlow Labour College made it possible for thousands of Guyanese and what we call second-chance students who would have failed in their first bid or stumbled in their attempt via various issues and experiences, whether it be parenting, finances, social and moral challenges, but the College opened its door and welcomed back those second-chance, attempting students. I believe - and I can be corrected on this - it was the only place where young pregnant mothers or teenage mothers were afforded the opportunity to re-sit with their colleagues and age groups to take their CSEC and other examinations, hence their lives were not pointed into any form of abandonment and disarray.
I come back to the National Youth Policy first draft and I see specific mention is given to mothers and school dropouts. I see projects for community development and I am saying that we embrace this. We embrace any initiative from this Government that is quite reasonable, balanced and pointed in the right direction to bring benefit and improvement to the lives of all Guyanese. So I do not see why the Critchlow Labour College should be excluded from that discussion and the subvention be continually withheld.
It is no secret that it has been an issue of some contention of many details I do not have. I have heard it being said that the College has misused the money. I say this loudly: we have something in our country called the Audit Office with an Auditor General and if anybody misuses public money, the Auditor General could deal with them. The Public Accounts Committee will deal with them. I will be there. But the misuse of funds is not enough reason. There are mechanisms in place that can be put – watchdogs and security measures – to ensure that money is spent how it is supposed to be spent. Hence, it is unreasonable to me to have thousands of young people refused and denied an opportunity because we probably have, at a next level, some financial and other relationships that cannot be reconciled. That, in my opinion, is not just. It is not right and it is not fair.
So this motion, apart from outlining the benefits which are known of education and more so, the College’s work in this country, calls on the House and the Government to revisit this issue and come up with systems that can see the moneys being put back, given back, for the opportunity that young Guyanese deserve. The College ran three campuses in my time across Linden, New Amsterdam and Georgetown. The College ran evening and morning school courses. One could work during the day, make a living, and then come back at night and get a change at education. People who fell out of the high school system, who dropped out, found their way to the University of Guyana and further afield because Critchlow Labour College (CLC) made the opportunity possible.
It is a fact. So there shall be no debate and doubt about the benefits of the taxpayers money spent on this institution and the students it produced. I am saying as a sponsor and presenter of this motion, I would agree with the Government of Guyana to put and encourage financial reform from a College administration perspective so that the moneys can be spent, if it is not satisfactorily spent and invested, but so that it can happen, that we can together better the lives of thousands of young people who today are turning to crime, turning to drugs and all sorts of delinquent behaviour because there is no opportunity for them to continue schooling.
The situation in Guyana today requires such an institution to come back functioning vibrant, not just in Linden, New Amsterdam and Georgetown, but further afield. The pilot projects can look to extend the Critchlow Labour College model and concept so that it can sweep in and harness a large bunch of young Guyanese, many of whom today are desperate and remain idle, by not being meaningfully involved. So this motion really speaks to a number of issues. If we want to see results in this country, and the young people come off the streets as we often say and turn to education, we must make it possible. We must spend in the right direction; and we must have discourse at the highest level of Government and Opposition to see how issues like these can be rectified. Today is the start of one such discussion, a motion from the Alliance For Chance (AFC) encouraging and challenging the Government to please, I plead with you, open the discourse for Critchlow Labour College to continue. The Be It resolved clause says:
“That the National Assembly calls on the Government of Guyana to restore the full subvention, thereby allowing the Critchlow Labour College to be reopened to its full capacity.”
In my brief comments, I highlighted the fact, the results, that this college has never failed Guyanese. The institution in delivering quality education, affordable education to the widest possible base of students, has never failed those who attended, and has helped us in this country to produce better young men and women and even adults who seek to make a very valuable contribution to themselves, families and the Guyanese economy.
I believe I will close by saying again I come back to the clause in the Prayer, this is one more just cause. And I ask the House after debate this evening let us step in the right direction and pass this motion to restore the subvention to Critchlow Labour College and give our young Guyanese brothers and sister a chance again.
I thank you. [Applause]
Mr. T. Williams (replying): I thank, first of all, to all the Members on both sides who spoke on this motion, and for sure the level of debate, which exists on this topic, is very interesting. I wish the nation, as a whole, could have benefited from this much earlier and to some extent we could have found a compromise on resolution to this issue long before the number of years that have passed.
Indeed, the AFC considers itself a party with vision for a better country, so while my colleague the Hon. Member Mr. Nadir did take a swipe at me, indicating that we are playing politics with this issue, I am glad we could have reached an agreement, a consensus, on an amendment. But it is also a bit disturbing to know that this motion was sitting on the floor of this Parliament for a number of weeks and interesting parties did not show the kind of interest to suggest the amendment and a way forward on the document, but nevertheless it is not too late and we are here today. I am glad that we have come to this point.
Mr. Speaker, adjust in the amendment, I wish to add a few words to the last paragraph which states, “that as a precondition to the provision to the subvention.” Instead of the words “Board of Directors of the Critchlow Labour College” it is that “the labour component” - I would like to have the words inserted there - “of the Board of Directors of the Critchlow Labour College be comprised four representatives of FITUG and four of the TUC.” That is what we would like to see.
I am asked by my colleague to read the entire amendment.
“AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:
That the National Assembly calls on the Government of Guyana to restore the subvention for the Critchlow Labour College.
That as a precondition to the provision of the subvention that the labour component of the Board of Directors of the Critchlow Labour College be comprised of four representatives of FITUG and four of the TUC.”
Moved by yours truly and seconded by Hon. Member Mr. Nagamootoo.