- As one of the pioneering students in the University of Technology’s (UTech) Master of Science in Integrated Rural Development, Zimbabwe national, Laina Steele, intends to use the knowledge and skills gained to contribute to the advancement of rural communities in her country.
- Mrs. Steele, who has a background in agriculture, was the first applicant for the programme, which began in January 2019.She welcomes the course of study.
- “Rural development, generally, is an area of concern worldwide because the rural people have been neglected or left behind in terms of development for too long, so it’s high time,” she said.
As one of the pioneering students in the University of Technology’s (UTech) Master of Science in Integrated Rural Development, Zimbabwe national, Laina Steele, intends to use the knowledge and skills gained to contribute to the advancement of rural communities in her country.
Mrs. Steele, who has a background in agriculture, was the first applicant for the programme, which began in January 2019.
She welcomes the course of study.
“Rural development, generally, is an area of concern worldwide because the rural people have been neglected or left behind in terms of development for too long, so it’s high time,” she said.
“As pioneers in this programme, we should also be in a position to look at those areas that have left a gap in development… . I’ll be incorporating the ideas from Zimbabwe as well as the newly learnt Jamaican ideas on this programme,” she added.
Mrs. Steele was speaking to JIS News at the recent launch of the postgraduate programme at UTech’s Papine-based campus in St. Andrew.
Developed in collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), it aims to equip graduates with the requisite skills and competencies to solve rural development issues in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region.
The programme marks the first new course of study to be introduced since UTech gained institutional accreditation from the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) in December 2018.
Being offered through the Faculty of The Built Environment (FOBE), the programme seeks to drive the sustainable economic and social development of underdeveloped rural communities for national progress.
It will promote rural entrepreneurship as the engine of growth, as well as increase the knowledge and technical skills of persons working in the public and private sectors in areas that are intricately linked to rural development.
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, lauded UTech for undertaking the new postgraduate programme.
“This is a great initiative. This speaks of innovation, of problem-solving and of the necessary collaboration between academia and government to address the real-life issues associated with the socioeconomic development of our country,” he said.
He noted that “rural development must begin with human development by taking a serious and critical look at the pulse points of opportunities and how we are going to exploit them”.
Programme Coordinator, Dr. Amani Ishemo, said that the master’s course is the only one of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean that offers a holistic approach to rural development.
“This programme is all-inclusive and is intended to equip graduates to be self-employed and to be potential employers,” he said.
He noted that it seeks to unlock the development potential of the rural sector in order to address rural poverty in keeping with Vision 2030 Jamaica and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Dr. Ishemo said that the introduction of the course came out of concern that much of the programme offerings in the Caribbean were focused on urban development.
“So this… course of study is intended to spearhead the primacy of the rural sector,” he said.
Dr. Ishemo informed that a rural development facility is also slated to be established.
“The centre will be complementary to this programme, particularly in fostering research and, also, we think it will be a think tank on matters related to rural development, and several projects, hopefully, will come on stream based on this centre, so we are working on it,” he said.
Meanwhile, RADA Representative, Brigitte Williams, informed that approximately four persons from the entity have been enrolled in the programme.
She said that “the Authority is elated to partner with UTech, as the benefits reaped have been quite fruitful and productive so far… . RADA will continue to scan the global environment and capitalise on this partnership towards promoting knowledge management, sustainable development and a robust agricultural sector”. IICA Country Representative, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, for her part, applauded UTech for having the vision to develop the programme and “giving students the knowledge and experience to find the multifaceted solutions needed to enhance economic growth and well-being in rural areas”.
President of (UTech), Professor Stephen Vasciannie, in remarks delivered by Dr. Paul Ivey, AVP, Graduate Studies, Entrepreneurship and Research, noted that the programme is aimed at boosting the country’s capacity to benefit from the vast potential of rural modernisation and development.
He said that targeted development in rural communities should focus more attention on areas such as tourism, sports, agriculture and fisheries, and access to good health services, roads, water, technology and educational opportunities.
“This new master’s programme represents an excellent example of public- and private-sector partnership working for the greater good of Jamaica’s development,” he said.
Dean of the Faculty of The Built Environment, Dr. Garfield Young, commended Dr. Ishemo, members of the faculty and the wider university, as well as the agencies of government and other local and international partners that have been instrumental in bringing the new course of study to fruition.
In addition to RADA and IICA, the other partners include Bureau of Standards Jamaica, Scientific Research Council (SRC), Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Brandon University in Canada.
Chairman of the BSJ, Senator Matthew Samuda, said the programme includes standardisation-related modules such as ‘Rural Production and Standardisation’, adding that the BSJ will closely collaborate on this module.
Entry requirements for the Master of Science in Integrated Rural Development include a Bachelor’s degree with a grade point average (GPA) of 2.7, or prior learning assessment for candidates with relevant work experience of five years or more.
The graduate programme consists of 11 modules, which will be delivered over 18 months or six semesters with specialisations in Rural Entrepreneurship, Rural Land Management and Settlement Development, as well as a thesis or research project.
For further information, persons may visit www.utechhjamaica.edu.jm or call 876-927-1680-8 ext. 3394.