KINGSTON — Principal of the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha Academy), Guyanese-born Mackran Singh, is to receive the National Honour of Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer (OD) on National Heroes Day, October 17, for his contribution to education in Jamaica.
“To be recognized in this way by this great nation is a very humbling experience. I feel proud and I am grateful to the Sisters of Mercy for offering me the privilege to serve in this noble institution,” Mr. Singh told JIS News during an interview earlier this week.
The Guyanese national, now a nationalised Jamaican, received his tertiary education at the universities of Guyana and Bordeaux in France, in 1974 and 1976 respectively. In 1974, he travelled to France, on a government scholarship, to pursue his Masters Degree in Comparative Literature. He has also done studies in education and business administration.
“I passed with distinction for the first degree, and I was the second best graduating student. I was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Medal and several other prizes for performance at university,” Mr. Singh recalls with great enthusiasm.
To him, teaching is a noble profession and he remains very passionate about his profession.
Interestingly, he began teaching at the age of seventeen, at the Sheet Anchor Anglican All Age School in Guyana. He came to Alpha in 1983, after being recruited by Sister Bernadette Little, Principal at that time, to teach French. He took the job, because he thought Jamaica was an excellent place to live and work in. He was appointed Principal in January 2001, breaking the tradition of female principals at Alpha.
“I thought, at first, that this would be a challenging experience but, I must say, that I have worked with two very fine professionals- Sister Grace Baston and Sister Bernadette Little,” he says.
Now, with over 40 years of experience under his belt, Mr. Singh understands that, with teaching, comes an awesome opportunity to influence the lives of students; a task which demands extreme care.
"When you teach you walk in the footsteps of our Lord,” he explains, “and therefore, you have to ensure that the message you transmit is so authentic, that it leads to moral, academical and spiritual development.”
The “Father of the Alpha girls”, as he is often called, is continuously trying to implement programmes and strategies to foster the total development of all students. With this kind of focus, his administration established a Mathematics Resource Centre in 2006, to make the subject more attractive to the girls.
Since its inception, the coordinators have been utilizing a practical and sustainable approach to teaching the subject, and the sixth form students are very much involved in the project. They use the exercise for bonding with lower school students, and it also proves how well they have grasped the mathematical concepts.
Mr. Singh points out that the results in Mathematics have increased since the centre started, and this year the school obtained an average 70% passes in the subject.
“We have seen progress and, as a matter of fact, this is not a statistic that I am satisfied with, but I think we have made a step in the right direction,” he adds.
Mr. Singh recognizes the need for parenting workshops to assist parents in developing the requisite skills to monitor their children. He says that professionals often come to the seminars to motivate parents to utilize creative and productive ways of handling issues in the homes, so that it does not affect the performance of their children.
Evaluations have been conducted by guidance counsellors, to measure the effectiveness of the workshops. Imperatively, the feedback has shown that they are working. He says that the first set of workshops for this year will begin in another few weeks.
Junior Vice-Principal, Susan Nelson-Bloomfield, says she is proud of Mr. Singh’s achievements. She thinks the national honour is well deserved.
“Mr. Singh has transformed the landscape of this school, and he has made a significant contribution, not just to the educational fabric of our girls, but also their social and spiritual development,” she explains.
Upper-sixth form student, Melissa Livingston, lauds him for achieving the national award. She says she is very proud of her Principal, and she is also elated to witness this achievement.
Mr. Singh still hopes to introduce more programmes, to promote the sustainableand wholesome development of Alpha students.
“I want to write a little bit one of these days, when I am away from Alpha,” he confesses, noting a desire to write about education and the hope that he will be able to find a niche in the educational reading market.
Mr. Singh also believes in the concept of sharing ideas and experiences for the greater good of the society, and so too do his students. He says that he lives by the ideas shared in the Hindu proverb- “Does a stream drink its own water? Does a tree consume its own fruit? All that is not given, all that is not shared is ultimately lost."
By Toni-Ann Russell