Residents of Black Bush Polder, Berbice in Region Six came out in their numbers to register for the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) and also to lodge various complaints with the First Lady Arya Ali and accompanying ministers of government, Education Minister Priya Manickchand and Public Service Minister Sonia Parag.
Many of the young, vibrant residents were given the opportunity on Monday to uplift and complete registration forms to study in any of the 86 fields being offered by the GOAL initiative.
Andrew Brikharry, a community health worker who plans on furthering his education in hospital administration praised the initiative, “I know for sure that this will have a great impact on the youth of Black Bush Polder… Black Bush Polder has been a place where a lot of persons are engaged in a lot of negative activities…so I think it would help a lot of people to [move away from that],” the 27 year old, said.
Young dancer, Seeta Mohabir is excited about the initiative, as she sees it as a once in a lifetime opportunity. “I can’t let this opportunity go in vain…we as Black Bush [residents] need to make use of it because we don’t have this on a regular,” she said.
The aspiring nurse mentioned that, like many other residents of the community, her education was limited by financial restraints. “I never had the opportunity to go out because of financial problem and transportation and so,” she noted.
Head Teacher of the Mibicuri Primary School, Natasha Liu, expressed her interest in applying for a scholarship to pursue her Master’s Degree in Psychology. Liu explained that though the purpose of the program is for her academic benefit, she plans to use the knowledge gained to assist her teachers and students in coping with the number of psychological problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think…coping with the pandemic is very difficult, [especially] the emotional issues in our society [which] need a lot of attention,” Liu explained.
Liu said that she will continue to urge the teachers under her purview to take hold of the “golden opportunity” which she believes can ease the stress brought on by financial issues and ultimately giving them a stronger focus in dealing with their students. “If they use this opportunity wisely, they will have an ease in terms of their finance, and they will be able to concentrate on their studies and less on their pocket,” the headmistress said.
Liu explained, however, that it is important to note that the internet access in Black Bush Polder and its environs is not to the standard it should be. This, she says, can pose a major problem for the registrants and their studies.
Like Mrs. Liu, 20-year-old Shakulanta Sookraj detailed the major challenge that she is sure will be an issue for many of the registrants for the GOAL initiative. “You see the thing is, while the program is a great initiative, how will we access it? We have internet services here, but it is not great. Sometimes you can go days [or] weeks without having connection, barely [being able] to load a webpage,” Sookraj complained.
The GOAL initiative, which seeks to deliver 20,000 scholarships by the end of 2025, will feature 5 international tertiary institutions that will provide accepted students with qualification all the way to a Doctorate degree.
The scholarship awareness program kicked off in Mibicuri, Black Bush Polder, Berbice where Minister of Education Priya Manickchand and Minister of Public Service Ms. Sonia Parag spoke to the residents of the community gathered at the Mibicuri Primary School.
The program was then taken to the community of Yakusari.
In her feature address, Minister Manickchand reaffirmed her government’s position on delivering the promises made to the citizens of Guyana. She also made special mention of Delisa Budhu, a young woman who wrote a letter to the First Lady detailing her difficulties in accessing quality tertiary education. “We are here as a response to her…with the kind of meaningful change [and] intervention that [everyone]… wants for their [children],” Manickchand said.
Minister Manickchand acknowledged the issue of internet accessibility and assured the residents and prospective registrants that technicians will be in the communities to assess the issue at hand by the end of the first week in May.