JIS News

In 1968, nearly a year before it commenced full operations at the Nain plant in St. Elizabeth, Alumina Partners of Jamaica (Alpart) donated a sum of $300,000 towards the development of a basic schools’ teacher-training programme with the hope that in the long run, the training would benefit students attending institutions in the Essex Valley region of the parish.
Over the last 36 years, the company continued to support education in central Jamaica by building and renovating a number of institutions, constructing computer laboratories and libraries, providing scholarships for high school and tertiary level students, bursaries for teachers, school-feeding grants, and in August, gave its most recent contribution of $2.5 million to assist 244 students with back to school expenses.
Public Relations Manager at Alpart, Lance Neita told JIS News that the company’s contribution to education over the years, is based on the principle that education is the cornerstone of development.
“We believe that it is the key to development and that it is important and that is why we have directed our investments in this direction. Our employees are also involved in our efforts,” he states.
Among the institutions to benefit from Alpart’s philanthropy is the Nain Primary and Junior High School.
Principal Basil Bennett informs JIS News that, “Alpart has done a lot for this institution. We get water from the company two times per week when there is no water in the main. We have received some computers and we also have a special breakfast programme that is sponsored by the company in conjunction with the Member of Parliament, Lenworth Blake.”
Mr. Bennett, who has been principal since 1980, further informs that the company provides funding to assist needy students, assisted in the construction of the school’s computer laboratory and has promised to provide additional equipment. “We are very grateful to the management and workers for the contribution that they have been making and we look forward to further contributions,” Mr. Bennett says.
A few kilometres away is the Prospect Primary School, an institution, which in 2001, benefited from a new computer laboratory and library through a joint initiative involving Alpart, United Way of Jamaica (UWJ) and the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI).
Computer Science teacher, Carole Bromfield, says that, “the creation of this facility has helped to enhance the learning process at Prospect Primary School, especially with the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) students”, noting that staff and community members also use the facility.
Over at the Gazeland/Steven’s Run Basic School, which was constructed by Alpart, principal Carol Baker has high praise for the opportunity afforded to the young children of the community.
“Some years ago, we started at the Gazeland Church of God of Prophecy with six students (and) since we have moved to this location, we now have in excess of 50 students. It was in April 1998 that we had the official handing over of the facility to us by Alpart and the company has landscaped and fenced the area making it so beautiful and we are very grateful for it,” she says.
Mrs. Baker says that the new school also serves as a community centre. “In the holidays we have summer classes and on certain occasions we put on special dinners right here, so it is a multi-purpose facility,” she says.
University of the West Indies graduate, Yanique Watson, who is a resident of Gazeland, mentions the “positive impact” that the company’s scholarship programme has had on his life. “I studied and did my first degree in geography at Mona. I then went on to do my masters in St. Augustine in Trinidad. They have helped so many youngsters, myself included, to acquire quality education.in my opinion, they have done all that can be expected to bring education to the wider south eastern communities,” he says.
He also lauds the “give back to the community” principle as enshrined in the scholarship programme.
“It is really a good alternative to student loan whether they do it in a way where you have to give back something to the plant or the community, you still benefit, for either you are guaranteed a job or most importantly, you will get that education that you so deserve. I would encourage persons in the wider society to follow the example set by Alpart and to make a difference by sponsoring a child in this sort of way,” he says.
Meanwhile, Mr. Neita lauds the company’s community council, under whose guidance eight schools were built between 1998 and 2002, in addition to four community centres and eight playfields.
He indicates that the beneficiary communities have been very appreciative of the work done. “The important thing is that all the facilities are in fact being used and in truth and in fact, we see a high level of utilisation by the senior citizens, by our educators and by the youth clubs.we are very pleased with the levels of participation and with the opportunities for joint participation with employees and community on these programmes,” he says.
Mentioning the company’s other flagship project, the Home, Street, School Safety (HSSS) Programme, Mr. Neita says that the activity began over 15 years ago and aims to promote safety at school.
“We designed it along with the principals as we wanted to put a safety motivational programme for youngsters. It is all based on the Alpart industrial safety programme so it had a lot of employee input,” he informs.
The year-long programme, which impacts about 10,000 students from 22 schools, culminates with a fair each June, where prizes and incentives are awarded to the institutions adjudged to have put the best safety measures in place.
“It is our hope that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture will see it fit one day to adopt our model and replicate it throughout the schools in Jamaica. One thing we do believe in is that students should go to school and do so in a safe environment,” he states.