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JIS News

For almost four decades, Jamaica’s bauxite companies -Windalco, Alpart, Jamalco and St. Ann Jamaica Bauxite Partners have made significant investments in the education of students residing in communities where mining operations are being conducted.
The companies not only contribute to the building of school plants, but also offer mentorship and fund scholarship programmes.
“We see the youth in the communities in which we live and work as a crucial investment in the development of Jamaica,” says Communications Officer at Windalco, Kayon Headley.
She tells JIS News that the investment in the education of the nation’s children is aimed at empowering people to pursue their own development, and remedy many of the ills that affect the nation. “There is no financial bottom line that we look to build when we help these youngsters,” she says. “The bottom line is about people development, empowering people to, on their own, successfully support themselves,” she adds.
According to Mrs. Headley, Windalco has always been a strong advocate of education and estimates that over the years, some $27 million has been spent on upgrading facilities and conducting educational competitions at several institutions including Heartease, Belleretiro and Content basic schools and Richmond Primary School.
The company has instituted a scholarship programme for tertiary level students, with more than one million dollars committed to the scholarship fund each year. Grants are offered to students attending the University of the West Indies, University of Technology, Northern Caribbean University, College of Agriculture, Science and Education and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. The programme will be extended this year with eight additional awards to candidates in the Grade Six Achievement Tests. Windalco’s assistance also extends to students at the secondary level, where 2,500 students have received book grants under the Secondary Book Rental Assistance Programme, while some 560 students have been assisted with their Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and Cape Examination fees.
There is also a Second Chance Education Programme for youngsters in the Schwallenburgh/ Moneague area, who left secondary school without the necessary academic qualifications. A total of 364 students have so far benefited under the initiative, which was instituted in 2002. The company sources and pays teachers from the nearby Moneague College to conduct the classes.
Meanwhile, Public Relations Manager at Alpart, Lance Neita, tells JIS News that his company’s contribution to education is based on the principle that education is the cornerstone of development. “We believe that it is the key to development and that is why we have directed our investments in this direction. Our employees are also involved in our efforts,” he states.
He informs that in 1968, nearly one year before Alpart commenced operations at the Nain plant in St. Elizabeth, the company donated some $300,000 toward the development of a basic schools’ teacher-training programme.
According to Mr. Neita, it was envisaged that eventually, the training would benefit students attending institutions in the Essex Valley region of the parish.
The company continued its support to education in central Jamaica over the next 38 years by building and renovating a number of early childhood institutions, constructing computer laboratories and libraries, providing scholarships for high school and tertiary level students, bursaries for teachers, school-feeding grants, and in August 2005, gave $2.5 million to assist 244 students with back-to-school expenses.
Among the institutions to benefit from Alpart’s philanthropy over the years is the Nain Primary and Junior High School. Principal of the institution, Basil Bennett, tells 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.”
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 from Nain Primary 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 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 her 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,” she 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.
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.
Not to be outdone is the St. Ann Jamaica Bauxite Partners (formerly Kaiser), which has, over the years, expended millions of dollars to the building and upgrading of schools and libraries in St. Ann.
The company sponsors the annual St. Ann 4-H Clubs’ environmental challenge project, the Jamaica Information Service Heritage Debate and assisted with the restoration of a number of schools in the parish after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Kaiser also contributed to the construction of a new library and computer room, valued at approximately $2 million, at the Eccleston All-age School, to benefit some 160 students. The facilities were opened in February 2004.
The company has been placing a lot of focus on skills training and has collaborated with the Bauxite Community Development Programme and the HEART Trust/NTA to implement a computer training programme in Water Valley.
According to Dianne Gordon, Director of Bauxite Lands and Administrator of the BCDP, Kaiser constructed the training centre with the intention of training persons in the community in computer skills and the BCDP got on board and later brought HEART into the mix.
“Now HEART is actually doing the training with the BCDP contributing in terms of equipment such as computers, while St. Ann Bauxite Partners provides the facility, resulting in a joint partnership” she explains.
But whilst Alpart, Windalco and St. Ann Jamaica Bauxite Partners are doing their part, Brian Doy, Public Affairs Manager at Jamalco, says that “Jamalco is a model company for Jamaican corporate entities to follow as it relates to our contributions to education.”
The Public Affairs Manager outlines that the company had been making many contributions over the years, and in October 2006, donated over 12,000 books to 40 primary schools in Manchester, as part of its ‘Month of Service’ activities.
In addition, he says, a 29-seat 2006 Toyota Coaster, valued at approximately $6 million was donated to Garvey Maceo High School and the company was contributing $2.3 million to the upgrading of Glenmuir High School in May Pen, Clarendon.