GLEANER: With the importance being placed on students' mastery of technical and vocational skills, along with academics, seven high schools across northwest Clarendon will benefit from a recent grant of $3.5 million from Member of Parliament Richard Azan through his Constituency Development Fund.
The funds will be used to provide or improve facilities that will afford students the opportunity to be formally trained in agriculture, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, building technology, cosmetology, information communications technology (ICT) and carpentry, among others. The beneficiaries for 2017 are Alston High, Knox College High, Thompson Town High, Claude McKay High, Edwin Allen High, C Palmer Project Hope School and Spalding High.
In his remarks at the handover ceremony held at Spalding High School on Friday, October 20, Azan advised that it makes no sense a student leaves high school with 13 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects and no skill. He also disclosed plans to impact the primary and infant schools and provide parents with the training needed so that they can add value to their children's lives.
The vocational project, which has been in existence for approximately five years, greatly benefited several schools last year. According to Richard Williams, head of the agriculture department at Alston High, the school was able to expand its poultry house to 400 square feet, increase its poultry stock and purchase a de-feathering machine with the $500,000 grant it received last year.
Principal of Spalding High School, George Henry also made mention of his school's accomplishments through the grant. "We have seen significant improvements in the number of percentage pass rates in various subjects in the industrial arts and economics departments. The allocation allowed us to acquire much needed equipment for these areas," Henry reported. "This resulted in 100 per cent pass rate for CSEC examinations in food and nutrition, clothing & textile, and cosmetology.
We saw 100 percent pass rate in the 2017 sitting of the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination for our newly added courses in electrical and electronic engineering technology," he added.
Knox College High, a beneficiary in 2016, has had many successes in building expansion, acquiring appliances and recruiting additional teachers for specialised skills, according to Principal Alexander Bourne. He revealed that in 2017 the school will expand its offerings in ICT, increasing the supply of computers and installing an intranet facility for the school community.
Thompson Town and Claude McKay high schools, which receives students whose academic averages are many times in the single digits, reported that these technical and vocational programmes result in their students doing well in external exams.
Meanwhile, Wayne Batiste, representative at the HEART Trust/NTA, noted that In addition to students who benefit directly from the technical and vocational programmes, these programmes are for the betterment of the country.
"Usually, the ages that are of concern are 17-24, which usually comprise youth at risk; if we don't impact those persons (through these kinds of programmes), then the future is going to be in trouble."
CAPTION: Mechanical engineering students arranging items they have made for display