Guyana’s First Lady, Her Excellency Sandra Marie Granger, a champion for women’s causes, was the guest speaker at a Women’s Networking Reception on Sept. 26, as part of her first official visit to New York to attend the 70th UN General Assembly with President David Granger.
The capacity crowd of women at Crystal Manor in Brooklyn gave the first lady a warm welcome, while Jaida and Jadynn Parris presented Granger with a bouquet of flowers, after which, the humanitarian spoke of education as her top priority.
Granger, who thanked the organizers for giving her the opportunity to celebrate “our Guyanese heritage” and to share her thoughts about children, seniors, the unemployed and the underemployed in Guyana, was passionately about her causes that needed immediate attention.
Quoting Pakistani activist, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who said education is hope and development, Granger added that the key to “our development and success, is education,” and spoke of the many students she met along the campaign trail that lacked basic reading and writing skills, but who were promoted to higher learning.
Educated, in politics and anthropology in Latin American, Granger noted that the students who pass the Grade 6 Common Entrance examination are predominantly those who attend private schools, and added that most who write the exam are girls.
“We are in a crisis,” said Granger who blamed the previous government’s lack of interest to provide the education that students deserved. “The scores are bleak, especially in mathematics, science and social studies, where the pass grade is just over 50 percent.”
“I want our children to aim higher. We have to put the tools in their hands to make sure they are properly educated,” urged Granger, whose United States scholarship earned her a Master’s Degree in Brazilian Portuguese Studies.
“I blame this on the ‘no child left behind’ program that placed students into a higher class, despite a failing grade,” said the former University of Guyana lecturer, who has embarked upon her first education initiative in the historic village of Buxton, on the East Coast of Demerara.
A Youth Development Initiative homework club will provide afterschool tutorial for youth and adults lacking reading, writing and computer skills — a model for other areas of Guyana such as the Hinterland region where 30,000 students will also receive footwear to attend school.
The first lady touched on underage pregnancy, naming Guyana, Belize and Jamaica as countries with the highest birth rate behind sub-Sahara Africa. She called for urgent help to deal with this phenomenon whereby children 15 years and younger are becoming pregnant and giving birth to babies.
To this end, she will work with medical professionals to devise a friendly tone to teach sex education and to reduce the incident rate that has become a financial burden on the youth, as well as the state.
As a mother, grandmother and daughter of a deceased Chinese immigrant from Suriname, Granger said the luring of young women with a promise of job opportunity that turn into prostitution, trafficking of persons and rape in the mining areas are unacceptable. She issued a stern warning to perpetrators who she said “would feel the full extent of the law.”
During the evening’s proceedings that included a musical tribute by the Rickford Dalgetty ensemble, the First Lady was presented with citations from Assemblywoman Roxanne Persaud, and Sandra Chapman, on behalf of Borough President Eric Adams, as Consul General Brentnold Evans, Judges Ingrid Joseph and Sharon A. B. Clarke, head of the Guyana Tri-State Alliance Patricia Jordan-Langford and Claire Goring of the Guyana Cultural Association, looked on.
The reception, hosted by Ismay and Dr. Alisha Griffith, attracted scores of professional Guyanese who volunteered to work with the first lady on domestic abuse, suicide, education, health, and youth programs, after a Q&A segment.
Guliana Jacobs acknowledged the planning committee comprising Jocelyn Wilson, Jennifer Ferreira-Dougall and Linda Felix-Johnson, the media, dignitaries and Guyanese organizations in attendance.