Commentary By Allison Skeete

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. May 14, 2019: I am writing this opinion in support of Dr. Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, Vice Chancellor and Principal at UG, not because I wanted to be another voice among the many, but because of the impact to date of his vision of a “renaissance” that is taking place at the University of Guyana.

I first met Dr. Griffith at the outgoing dinner of former Counsel General of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Harold Robertson, with whom I once sat on a particular organization’s board of directors. As Professor Griffith spoke at this particular event, I was impressed by his career path, his writings and his professional achievements in higher education. 

Personally, I emigrated from Guyana with my parents as a teenager.  At that time, I dared not voice my thoughts of despair out of fear of reprimand.  Leaving Guyana was a jarring experience because it interrupted my youth and left a feeling of hurt, loss and resentment. From that exodus, I vowed to never to forget Guyana.  I grew up in a family that stressed education, had teachers on my maternal and paternal sides of our family; I am the niece of one of the most respected teachers known as ‘Sir Fernandes.’

He began his teaching career in the 1960’s and has dedicated more than 50 years to teaching, guiding and mentoring so many who have made him proud of the part he played in their academic success from–Chatham in Eccles, to Tutorial, St. Rose’s etc. Education is the bedrock that builds the success of nations and its peoples.

When Dr. Griffith became the Vice Chancellor at UG, he believed it was necessary to bring the University into modern times.  With that view in mind, Professor Griffith established a group of Education Resource Ambassadors (ERA), with the aim of engaging UG alumni the Guyanese diaspora and other international supporters, or “friends,” who shared his vision of a revitalized educational institution. In June 2016, more than100 such alumni and friends of UG accepted the invitation to serve the University as ERAs. 

At that time, Dr. Griffith provided ERAs with a first-hand view of the state of UG. To put it mildly, the stark conditions of disrepair and lack of equipment for learning was incomprehensibly shocking! UG was once was known as the bedrock of some of the best academic minds in the region among the Caribbean nations and in the UK.  To Sir With Love written by E.R. Braithwaite was a shining example of the Guyana’s educational system and is one among many, many more.

While we ERAs did not all attend UG, we all had a yearning to do something for our land of birth, and this seemed the perfect fit. We were willing to support the VCs efforts.  As ERAs, we participated in seminars to develop structure for programs and ways to help with the vision of this UG Renaissance the Vice Chancellor explained to rebuild his alma mater and position it as the University of the Region; rebrand UG as a catalyst for many future successes and leaders of high caliber.  We played “guitar not mouther,” making financial and time commitments to the renaissance rebirth at UG. Many of us continue to do so as the advent of economic growth beckons to the land of many waters. UG has more support with small groups of alumni, friends and supporters which annually raise funds for programs at UG and donate equipment, supplies and more to see the renaissance fulfilled.

In my opinion, the opposition to Dr. Griffith’s tenure stems from fear. I’ve worked in corporate America for more than thirty years and the transparency he demands and provides for everything done that benefits UG, the students, staff and every project that takes place is unmatched.  That can be frightening. What Professor Griffith has accomplished in three years means work is being done, has been done and must continue being done.

The modern university must have student input, it must provide enhanced learning opportunities and instill a sense of capability to step into the future as a viable adult contributing to the community that guided one through. 

This includes seeing students engaged in undergraduate research; thinking of what oil and gas means economically and that they can have better lives. I am involved with UG, as a non-alumna, because of the VC. He has provided the opportunity for ‘give back’ to Guyana in honor of the parents who provided me with the opportunities I’ve had. All of the improvements made with the onset of his tenure have been listed numerous times recently.

Vice Chancellor Griffith must be allowed to continue carrying his mantle, his humility and straightforward, no-nonsense character equates the interest, giving and success we see in the improvements now at UG and ensures a positive future for Guyana.  Now is the time for the University of Guyana’s international success.

I stand in support of the Vice Chancellor of University of Guyana, and the dedicated staff and students who also support the work and improvements he has enabled at the institution; their support is from front row seats to the changes his tenure has made possible. 

To quote Sir Winston Churchill: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Vice Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith defines this; having taken UG from failures to success with enthusiasm in the face of unwarranted and/or misplaced objections.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Allison Skeete is President of The Alumni and Friends of the University of Guyana and Education Resource Ambassador.

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