Principal at the Marcus Garvey Technical High School, Anniona Jones, is leading the transformation of the St. Ann’s Bay-based institution, named in honour of the country’s first national hero.
Ms. Jones, who was appointed principal in 2018, has embarked on an improvement programme aimed at turning around the performance of the school, which in 2011, was among four institutions targeted for intervention by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information due to underperformance.
“When I got here and saw the rich talent pool we have at our disposal, I promptly declared the dawn of a new day at the institution and have set about making it more reflective of the national hero in whose honour it is named,” she tells JIS News.
She says that her job from the get-go has always been about the rebranding of the school, adding that along the way, the educational focus has expanded to include entrepreneurship and skills training.
Ms. Jones notes that traditionally, Marcus Garvey has been a school that receives students who are performing below average.
“It was viewed by residents in the community as a troubled institution, which had disciplinary challenges, and examination passes were below expectations,” she notes.
“That was the mindset and that was what we were up against. I told our teachers that we would not accept that stigma as a given and that we would work hard and dedicate ourselves to changing that narrative, and, for the most part, I think we have succeeded,” she tells JIS News.
Nearly two years into the post, Ms. Jones has stamped her mark as a transformational leader who is focused on success and has got the full support of the entire school community, including staff, students and parents.
Ms. Jones says that in getting the buy-in of the students, they had to be convinced that they were the bearers of the legacy of one of the most influential civil rights activists of the 20th century, and that Marcus Garvey Technical is potentially as good as any other high school in St. Ann.
She tells JIS News that the next step was to unleash the creative spirit of the students and noted that focus was not only placed on skills development but also how to earn with those skills, in keeping with Garvey’s belief in promoting black wealth.
“So, as it stands today, entrepreneurship, as well as skills training, is a main part of our focus where some of the older kids are enrolled in disciplines such as hospitality management where they will earn associate degrees,” Ms. Jones says.
“We have two associate degree programmes that we started along with the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean. We also have the Centre of Occupational Studies that is partnering along with us for that programme,” she points out.
Ms. Jones tells JIS News that the school will only get better and will be a force to be reckoned with in terms of academic excellence and sports.
She notes that the institution’s Mansfield campus in Ocho Rios, which accommodates junior students, will be used as an incubator to address academic deficits and, more importantly, shift the children’s mindset to more positive thinking.
“We believe that as a technical institution it doesn’t matter where our students are coming from. We know we have some children that come in reading at about grade four… [and] we plan to take these children towards their purpose using skills development and shifting the mindset.
“Once we understand where we’re coming from and we firmly set our eyes on where our kids can go, the staff that I have here are qualified and trained, and they can get the kids there,” she notes.
“So we’re not going to quit on them, once they don’t quit on us,” she adds.
Marcus Garvey Technical, formerly St Ann’s Bay Junior Secondary, was established in September 1971, with 14 teachers and 780 students enrolled from grades seven to nine.
Today, the school population is comprised of 119 teachers and 1,764 students, spreading across two campuses – the Mansfield campus for grades seven and eight students and the main campus in St Ann’s Bay, the original site, for grades nine to 11.