by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 29 Jan 2006)
When I was a child in school, I never even gave a thought to college or getting a higher education. There was not one person that I knew of in my family who had ever gone to college. The little I knew of my father’s side of the family was that they were probably farmers until the last generation, when they all became alcoholics instead.
On my mother’s side, I only know of my grandmother, also named Stella, and of my mother and her six sisters. They were all poor and never privileged to such indulgences as education. In fact, my mother only had a primary school education. This was before mandatory attendance was enforced in the U.S.
As such, I did not grow up in a family that even once brought up the thought of getting a higher education. In fact, most of those in my family didn’t even complete secondary schooling. Therefore, I always assumed that I would continue to live in the same weighty poverty that had forever shackled my family. They were proud of their poverty too and when I made moves to rid myself of the same poverty, I had an auntie who told me I grew up poor, my family was poor and I would always be poor too – so just get use to it.
It was a Guyanese who helped me find my way out of poverty and introduced me to the benefits of getting a higher education. Which is why it pains me that so many Guyanese have such an exaggeratedly low self-image whilst believing that people in the U.S. live in an embellished paradise.
Can you imagine for just one minute that a young Guyanese man from an educated home taught a poor American girl from an uneducated home that she had a future outside of poverty? If you can, then half of the battle is already won because that means you can see Guyana achieving her full glory – and it won’t come by way of a political victory, it will come by way of the people.
As I mentioned before, I met my husband at a young age. When we met, he was in his first year at a university. Both of his parents had received a solid education in Guyana and his father went on to receive a Doctorate Degree while in the States, so I was thrust into a family who valued education and taught me to raise my own educational expectations as well. And I am so glad.
This higher personal standard combined with an opportunity to study, made a world of difference in my life. Consequently, I raised my own children with high academic goals too and now my two oldest are in higher educational institutions, one at a university and another at a community college.
In short, it was a Guyanese who gave me the hope and opportunity to create an occupation for myself that is both fulfilling and rewarding. Which brings me to an email I received the other day from a young woman in Guyana who lamented over her seemingly hopeless situation.
I will not reveal this young woman’s name for fear that someone might take retribution on her for merely speaking the truth, but she deserves to have her story told. All of Guyana’s youth deserve to have their stories brought to the forefront of society.
She told me, “I am a policewoman not by choice but desperation in job selection, I have my qualification but I am a black woman with not much money and contacts.” Notice the key word in my friend’s statement – desperation. Guyana’s young people are being refused the security that rightfully belongs to them. They have no guarantee of academic security, personal security or economic security. I can completely sympathise with this sentiment and can feel the sense of despondency that must overshadow them as if it was my own despondency.
Providing this young generation with the equipment it needs to successfully navigate the modern world should be one of the foremost priorities on the election agenda. My friend also confided that she was not happy with the political party she voted for in the last elections. Who can really blame her? It seems with all of the politicking that goes on in Guyana; it never results in any substantial changes in the areas of real issue and import.
The politicking in this country is all about how one party can out manoeuvre the other party and very little attention is actually given to the real people, with their real problems, who want real change. Economic security is more than just a offering a respectable education, once the young men and women graduate, they need to have an array of occupational choices with salaries that will help them fashion a good life for themselves. In turn, they will provide the same opportunities for the next generation.
This is how John Mootooveren put it in a letter to the Editor on January 20, “So why haven't young people challenged this new economic and political system? One reason is that we've been raised to view our struggles as personal problems, rather than seeing how the rug has been pulled out from under us. While we sense that something has gone wrong, we still look to our own behaviour and decisions as the root cause of why we can't get ahead - especially when we compare our own lives to the riches that seem so prevalent.”
The young people of Guyana are desperate for someone to offer them a promising future, so desperate that some are selecting careers out of “desperation in job selection” and others have turned to a life of crime. What kind of life is this? What kind of future will these young people have?
I remember feeling that same desperation and wanting with everything inside me to break free from the generational cycle of poverty. Luckily, a Guyanese came along and helped me find the untapped potential that lay dormant inside and to reach that potential in a powerful way. Where are the Guyanese who will do the same thing with this nation’s youth?
I do not believe the current administration has the capacity or the desire to create the type of country these young people so desperately desire. I have already mentioned that women should not vote for any party that does not address their issues. Now I am encouraging Guyana’s young people to do the same.
If a party does not care enough about you to include you in their platform – then they do not deserve your vote. This is your country and if you don’t demand a competent government, then you can only expect more desperate youth and victimised women.