Guyana’s secondary school system should be fully computerized in the next five years, suggests honorary Consul General Danny Doobay.
The Guyana Consulate in Toronto in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Literacy (GPL), which is a Canadian-based non-governmental organization, the Guyana government and Guyana Diaspora communities across Canada are involved in the cutting edge “SchoolNet” initiative that has the potential to revolutionize the delivery of education in Guyana.
There are currently 110 secondary schools in Guyana and another 10 will be built by the time the program is completed at a projected cost of nearly $12 million.
“This program will change the way education is delivered,” Doobay told a fundraising family brunch for the project last Sunday. “It doesn’t mean we are going to replace teachers because, in my mind, they are irreplaceable. What we want to do is give the children the technological tools of learning that they don’t have at the moment. We want to give them access to information that they don’t have.
“It will give children in the rural areas a similar level of access to information as those residing in the urban areas. And if that can’t transform our school system or help our kids to increase their performance in school, get better grades and come out of school better equipped to compete in this global environment, I can’t think of any other initiative that can equal or even surpass what we are attempting.
“This is a national effort and not just a school-centered effort and, at the end of the day, we are looking to raise the standard of technology and the standard of education across the whole secondary school sector.”
Guyana’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Frank Anthony, who was in Canada last week for a family funeral, attended the event.
“This is quite a visionary effort,” he said. “There are some who might not understand right now the impact that this program will have on Guyana and indeed on our children because there are many schools that don’t have computers.
“We feel that what you are doing is very important because the world today is one where technology is very crucial. We also know there is a huge gap between developed and developing countries because of technology and that gap will not be bridged easily. In fact, if we do not do something about it, it will get wider.”
Labs, comprising about 30 computers, a server and projector, will be installed in each school at a cost of nearly $65,000. As a partner, the Guyana government is contributing $25,000 for physical infrastructure while Microsoft is providing almost $16,000 in software.
A pilot project is currently underway in five schools at Diamond, Bygeval, Patentia, Beterverwagting and Parika to provide key inputs for the final design of the project and completion of a comprehensive business plan.
“The idea of the pilot is to use it as a learning experience because each school is different,” said GPL board member Basil Punit. “At the end of the pilot, the board will put together a policy document that will identify what works and what does not.”
Doobay addressed concerns that priority might be given to schools based on ethnicity which is a dominant characteristic of Guyana’s society and politics.
“What we are looking to do is help Guyanese children of any ethnicity,” said Doobay. “We are not looking at any particular area or doing a school because of who attends or where the school is.”
Anthony concurred with Doobay, adding that the program is colour blind.
“What you are doing is helping the children of Guyana to be able to have access to computers and more learning opportunities,” he said. “Once we grasp that concept, then race and colour should not even come into our minds. This is how we should approach it…We talk a lot about our differences. We should start talking about the similarities we have as a people because we have a common history. It could also help us move ahead faster.”
As a condition for the installation of a computer lab, each school is required to have a parent teachers association which Doobay says will help sustain the program. He also called on the private sector in Guyana to step up to the plate and contribute to the enhancement of education in Guyana.
‘It’s their social responsibility and they could provide scholarships or fund different educational programs,” said Doobay.
The main component of the information and communication technology (ICT) project is the system-wide infrastructure to install ICT such as Internet access and an intranet network for collaboration and distance learning in the targeted schools.
Other elements include professional development to assist the Ministry of Education to develop trained professionals to teach and integrate ICT in the school curriculum, the creation of digital content and ICT dissemination that will extend beyond the classroom to community cafes and after-school programs, and curriculum development.