Granger wants stronger education system – pushes for more entrepreneurship in hinterlands

Granger wants stronger education system – pushes for more entrepreneurship in hinterlands

Amerindians

A scene at the opening of Indigenous Month celebrations 2015

[September 15, 2015 – Guyana Chronicle]  President David Granger said while his administration wants to see more entrepreneurship in the indigenous communities, the education system has to be the base of the economy.

“We have to reform the education system so that more children in indigenous communities have access to education; there are fewer dropouts and higher quality teaching and more people graduate who can go into university,” he said.

The President was at the time responding to a question from the Guyana Chronicle on whether the Indigenous Month Celebration should focused more on entrepreneurship and community-based tourism apart from cultural preservation.

President Granger pointed out that there were several events before the Indigenous Month Celebration, with the first being the national Toshaos Council. “More or less it merged into Amerindian Heritage Month,” he said, pointing out that some of the points that were raised at that conference include building happy households, entrepreneurship, strengthening the education system and the role of women in the communities.

“So we want to see stronger economies. The hinterland where most of the indigenous live is the richest part of the country. It is rich in timber, it is rich in minerals and it has great eco-tourism potential,” he said.

Some have said that there is need for greater private sector involvement in Amerindian communities while Toshao Lenox Shuman from St Cuthbert’s Mission, Region 4 has suggested that instead of having the event held for one month, it should be for nine days. He is advocating for one day for each of the nine Amerindian tribes in current existence in Guyana.

Shuman explained that this one-month event is used as an escape route for many who refuse to work during this time, and say: “This is my month; I don’t have to work.”

Revamp
Meanwhile, Toshao of Moraikobai (Region 5), Colin Adrian while praising the celebrations, called for it to be revamped.

According to him, while the Amerindian Month initiative is one which provides some amount of marketing for local Amerindian products, which include art and craft, food, and fashion, it is not a long-term plan to combat the erosion of Amerindian culture.

With globalisation rapidly shifting the socio-economic landscape of the world, Guyana, too, has fallen prey to these new adaptations, which contribute to the loss of traditional practices by indigenous groups.

A question was put to the President on why the celebrations are held in Georgetown and not the hinterland, to which he responded that contrary to the belief of many, the celebrations are also held in hinterland communities.

The President explained that while the indigenous peoples are part of the population, not many on the Coastland are aware of their customs, rituals and practices.
“Public servants spend months and years in the hinterland and can’t speak a word of the indigenous communities in which they lived.

“It is a two-way street, so it is good for the indigenous people to come to town so that people in Georgetown or the coastal areas are more aware of their customs or are more respectful of the indigenous people” Granger said.

Equally, he said, these celebrations should also be vibrant in the hinterland so as to generate greater pride and a sense of identity.

“So we don’t want to treat Indigenous Peoples Month as it is called now as something which is not exclusive, but inclusionary and all the Guyanese people should be proud of their heritage.”
The President said it is good for the people on the coastland to be part of the celebrations because it demystifies the negative perceptions of race and creates a feeling of integration and appreciation of the language and culture of the indigenous peoples.

By Tajeram Mohabir

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