…childrenThere have all the children gone?? For years and years, the Common Entrance examination, which morphed into the NGSA, was written by 16,000 or so kids. That number was pretty constant — just like our overall population. As recently as 2013, some 16,800 children between 11 and 12 years old wrote the NGSA. But every year since, the number’s been inexorably dropping: 2014 – 15,400; 2015 – 15,200; 2016 – 14,500 and this year 13,600.What’s going on? Have 3000 kids been abducted by aliens? Has our birth rate dropped precipitously since 2002?? But this would have been felt 12 years later in 2014. Is the reduction in the numbers of children writing the NGSA related to the slow fyaah, mo’ fyaah of the PNC, which segued into gang-related political violence? Is it a case of “make war not love”? Inquiring minds want to know!!Your Eyewitness wonders whether the explanation’s much more mundane and related to the issue that’s been exercising folks in the education sector – private schools. But as far as he knows, the private primary schools do have their kids write the NGSA, since most of their kids still want to enter the “premier” secondary schools. So, seriously, the Ministry of Education should launch an investigation into this drop in the NGSA age cohort.But your Eyewitness was also struck at the lack of excitement that normally accompanies writing of the NGSA. Apart from Minister Rupert making some unlucky kid become even more nervous by dropping into her school and chatting with her, the coverage was pretty muted. Was it because the VAT charge on private education has everyone in that sector so het up?But seriously, folks, the NGSA and private education are actually related. It is success or failure at the NGSA that, to a large extent, determines your life’s chances in Guyana; since the school you attend plays such a large role in determining the latter. Parents are confronted with the same question every year: If their kids didn’t make in to the top 1%, what then? Are they forever doomed to be dubbed as “failures”? After the Government denationalised the school system, private secondary schools provided another option; and not just for the wealthy, but for all concerned parents.Then the competitive demand dropped to private primary schools, which were simply the “lessons” syndrome for 6th Graders writ large. So, while there are some rich parents fostering elitism in a couple of private schools, by and large, the VAT is punishing poor people who want better for their kids.Rather than imposing a punitive VAT, all the Government needs to do is bring all public secondary schools to the same level as the public “premier ones”.Voila!! Problem solved!!…HydroA piece of news from the foreign section caught your Eyewitness’s eye. The state of Roraima in northern Brazil, abutting our Rupununi, is suffering from blackouts. As longsuffering consumers of the sporadic power GPL issues, you, dear reader, may ask, “What’s the big deal?”Well, for decades, Roraima’s been supplied with electricity from the massive Guri Dam Hydro that Venezuela built in the 1960s. But with all their recent and not-so-recent troubles, the news item pointed out, with the neglect of maintenance to the transmission lines (now where’ve we heard this before??) the supply to Brazil’s Roraima will be getting worse, rather than better.So what’s this to us? Just that when the PNC-led Government nixed Amaila Falls Hydro, they said they preferred a much larger 4000MW project in the Cuyuni basin, in which the Brazilians had expressed interest. Do they still think Brazil’s gonna put their energy-needs egg in a foreign basket? Again??…Judicial authority Do you see a pattern developing? The Judiciary’s being cornered, buffeted and challenged by the Executive and the legislature it controls in their substantive competence of Constitutional interpretation. Now new bodies like SARU and SOCU are legislatively “legitimised” to be investigators, prosecutors, judges, juries and executioners of political opponents. Is this judicial castration?