I read with keen interest the article published in the Guyana Chronicle on May 26, captioned ‘UG students can be accommodated at Eugene Dupuch Law School.’
Firstly there is an information deficit as concerns the general issue, especially information flowing towards law students on this matter of admission to law school. The first time we heard an official word on the dilemma was in March 2014 when Attorney General Anil Nandlall held a meeting, but anything else that we have learnt has been through the media to date.
Secondly, as concerns the accommodation at the Eugene Dupuch Law School (HDLS) that is a welcome alternative arrangement, but before we start celebrating we have to factor in cost. The AG himself said to us at the March meeting that HDLS costs twice that of Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) where Guyanese nationals are zoned to attend, and additionally the living expenses are close to tuition cost. Is it possible that additional costs in comparison to HWLS are subsidized by government?
And on the same point, paraphrased words in the Chronicle article attributed to the Chairperson of the Council of Legal Education, Ms Jacqueline Samuels-Browne, read, that Council would have to know, as soon as possible, how many UG graduates would be interested in attending that law school. This is a matter of urgency for both the Chairperson and the law students. In the latter case we request information as to what exactly is going to be the arrangements with HDLS.
I hasten to add that whatever arrangements are arrived at with HWLS and HDLS the matter as it concerns the facility law students engage for the final aspect of their legal training begs for a long-term solution. That solution, I humbly submit, has to be a local law school.
The idea of a local law school was on the table as early as 2002 and its benefits were enumerated in a concept paper of that period. That concept paper was the work a task force, I am advised, which included the then Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard; University of Guyana Vice-Chancellor, James Rose; Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Mark Kirton; a representative of the Bar Association; a member of the AG’s chambers; and the Librarian of the University of Guyana.
Some of the considerations for the local law school included: “The fees would be lower than the US$10 000 year at HWLS. And the local law school could concentrate on teaching practice skills in advocacy, legal drafting and computer research as obtains in England and Australia, rather than the teaching of substantive law; that the teaching of substantive law should be done at the university and the UG LLB programme would be adjusted to accommodate this.
“A number of savings could be realised as a result of the sharing of some resources with the UG LLB programme. He noted that the two bodies could share facilities such as a Resource Centre and a Library with the addition of ‘Practice Texts.’
“Projected revenue from fees and the diversion of the grant which would otherwise go to the LLB programme, to the law school, should more than cover recurrent expenses. The government grants to the LLB programme were intended to pay UWI for second marking and monitoring its examinations under the collaborative agreement with UWI and the CLE.”
It would appear that the avenue of a local law school was well thought out and perhaps the proposal could be updated and retabled.
It would be remiss of me not to recognize the efforts of the Government of Guyana as “…the Government continues in its effort to seek a resolution of the impasse affecting the University of Guyana law students from gaining access into the Hugh Wooding Law School, Trinidad,” according to the AG in the Chronicle article.
Suffice to say that I noted in the article there is a scheduled meeting between the Government and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community tentatively for June 2014. I suggest with humility that, because of the nature of the meeting proposed, notwithstanding its quality, that our elected student representative of the University of Guyana Law Society (UGLS) Saeed Hamid is also included in the delegation.
Sherod Avery Duncan
Class of 2014