Corporate Organizations Award Millions for Back-to-School Initiatives in Jamaica

written by BVC August 15, 2019

Ahead of the new academic team, the business sector in Jamaican is engaging the human development aspects of the country in educating young people, awarding millions in back-to-school initiatives.

Earlier this month, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) reported a further reduction in the unemployment rate to a new record low of 7.8 percent, hitherto, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, said “The local economy has been experiencing consistent growth for almost 18 consecutive quarters.” If the economy continues to maintain this level of growth and achieves two percent growth for the year, then Jamaica will be on a trajectory “to its true growth potential, which is about five percent.” That confidence has ostensibly placed heavy emphasis on education and human capital development at an unprecedented rate, supported by government initiatives.

The Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO)/Alpart will be awarding $20 million in scholarships and school supplies under its 2019 Back-to-School assistance program. The awards ceremony will be held on August 9, at the Alpart Sports Club in Nain, St. Elizabeth. Public and Community Relations Manager at JISCO/Alpart, Julian Keane, said that approximately 2,200 students from the company’s operating communities in St. Elizabeth and Manchester are slated to benefit. These include 450 Primary Exit Profile (PEP) students, who received placement scores of 280 and above.

“This year, we are offering four tertiary scholarships to students studying education, medicine, agriculture, and information technology,” Keane said, the program, which is in its tenth year, has benefited some 13,500 students to date. Keane added that the initiative continues to grow annually, with JISCO/Alpart awarding $13 million to 1,800 students last year. “Each year, we do our evaluation (on the program) and we continue to see how we can make it much better. We continue to do this initiative because we recognize the value of education in our operating areas.”

“We know that there are a number of students who are actually in need of some assistance to further their educational development from the primary, secondary, tertiary, and even the basic (school) level, where we assist students with vouchers to purchase uniforms, bags books, and so on. Students and parents in the beneficiary communities look forward to the assistance every year,” Keane said, noting that it serves to motivate the students to do well in school.

The top-performing boy and girl in the inaugural sitting of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) have received $1 million each from the Guardian Group Foundation to assist in financing five years of their secondary education. Dominic Haisley and Rachel Gammon, who will be attending Campion College in September, were among 25 outstanding scholars honored at the Foundation’s annual Scholarship and Grant Awards ceremony held on July 23, at the AC Marriott Hotel in New Kingston. More than $5.5 million in grants, bursaries, book vouchers, and book supplies were awarded to the students.

Also honored were children of Guardian Life policyholders who emerged as top performers in PEP; children of Guardian Life employees who excelled in PEP, and those who will be entering tertiary institutions locally. Grants were also provided to eight students from Denham Town, Alpha and Duhaney Park primary schools in Kingston and the Sunbury All-Age School in Clarendon.

President of Guardian Life Limited, Eric Hosin, said the scholarship and grant program is just one initiative by the corporate entity to positively impact communities. “Education is for improving the lives of others and leaving your community and the world better than you found it. At Guardian, we recognize and believe that community effort is one of the bedrocks of success, hence the critical role the Foundation continues to have in making a difference to the lives of our citizens and communities,” he said.

Minister with responsibility for Education, Youth and Information, Karl Samuda, in a message read by Chief Education Officer, Winnie Berry, lauded the Guardian Group Foundation for its unwavering commitment to the education of the nation’s youth. “This event is a testimony to Guardian Life’s continued commitment to creating a real-life solution for our nation’s children to make progress through education,” he said.

Tertiary-level students across Jamaica are invited to apply for the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) Education Grant for the 2019-2020 academic year. Assistance/Grants will be provided for more than 200 students in Jamaica, 26 years and younger, who are registered for the academic year 2019-2020 with a GPA of at least 2.75.

Manager, corporate affairs and communication at the BGLC, Jeanette Lewis, said that each student will receive $50,000 towards their tuition fee. “We want to encourage Jamaican young people who are pursuing tertiary studies to apply for the education grant, as it is not a loan, and it will be paid directly to the school,” Lewis said. “As the regulator of the gambling industry, what the BGLC wants to ensure is that the proceeds of gambling are used to do good within our community,” she added.

Lewis pointed out that most of the taxes and fees collected by the BGLC go back to the Consolidated Fund; however, a portion of the proceeds goes to the CHASE Fund and to charitable causes. More than 400 students have already benefited from the BGLC’s Education Fund since it was launched in 2015. The initiative is part of the gaming regulatory body’s corporate social responsibility program, focusing on education and community development. Lewis noted that part of the application is a 500-word essay, for which the topics can be found on the BGLC website.

Fifteen thousand teachers will benefit from the roll-out of the Tablets for Teachers Program, which should begin in December 2019. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at e-Learning, Keith Smith, said the project implementation agency is currently undertaking the procurement process for the tablets, which will be distributed under the program. He added that the program is part of an agreement between the government and the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) to provide each teacher in public schools with a 10-inch tablet computer as part of their compensation package. The tablets will be for personal use as well as to help them deliver the curriculum.

Smith pointed out that the first phase of the program will focus on infant and primary schools, and the second phase will focus on high schools. The Tablets for Teachers program is part of a series of projects that e-Learning is rolling out. “We are now in [an era] that is being called the fourth industrial revolution, and we have to train our students in how to use these tools to get them ready for the workplace,” Smith said. “Therefore, e-Learning is focused on ensuring that students in public schools have the right technology and tools to improve their learning experience.”

Other projects for the entity include ‘Tablets in schools’; ‘Technology integration for primary schools’, intended to give all primary schools basic IT infrastructure; and an IT infrastructure overhaul of some high schools. “Upon completion of these projects in schools, there could be upwards of 400,000 devices operating in public schools,” Smith said.

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