Gleaner Honour Awards | NCB Foundation - changing the nation through education
A fixation of purpose and a rare knack for creating life-changing opportunities for students across the country is what the National Commercial Bank (NCB) is renowned for.
The bank's focus on education has enveloped its focus, so much so, that since 2003, the NCB Foundation has been committed to the advancement of the intellectual capital of Jamaican citizens.
"Education is a key enabler for economic development while assisting young Jamaicans to fulfil their academic dreams," said the bank's group managing director, Patrick Hylton.
Proud recipient of The Gleaner Honour Award 2016 in the category Education, the bank was recognised for its continued support of the education sector in Jamaica, especially by facilitating higher-education access for thousands of Jamaican students through its Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) initiative.
"Between the periods 2004-2016, the NCB Foundation paid for over 100,000 students to sit principles of accounts and principles of business at the CSEC exams," said Hylton.
Hylton said the philanthropic arm of the Michael Lee Chin-owned organisation has evolved beyond everyone's wildest dreams. He points to the thousands of students who have received scholarships and grants since 2003 and who now have a fighting chance at life and opportunities to be better able to chart their own future.
"Education remains a major investment and a top priority for the NCB Foundation," he stated, adding that it was the single largest determination of a person's transition from poverty to upward mobility.
He noted that the total amount allocated to the NCB Foundation last year was $109 million of which $73 million or 67 per cent was spent on education.
"We also make significant contributions in terms of scholarships and grants. Every year we award 14 headline scholarships; one for each of the 12 parishes as well as two all-island champion scholarships. That takes the tally to 14 which we have been doing for some time now," he added.
He noted that some 126 persons have benefited from the initiative and an additional 1,300 students were the direct beneficiaries of grants which were given to help with their education from primary through secondary and tertiary education.
"One of the requirements is that they give eight hours community service per semester through an approved institution," he explained. "And that is something that we monitor to ensure compliance as much as possible."
The NCB group managing director said the foundation's focus on education actually had its genesis in a desire expressed by the bank's chairman Michael Lee Chin, shortly after his acquisition of the major shares in the financial institution in 2002.
"I am sure we can all recall when he expressed the desire for every Jamaican student to have the opportunity for tertiary education," he reminisced.
He adds that while the foundation also does work in other areas, it sees education as a life changer which opens doors and other opportunities for many Jamaicans.
For her part, chairperson of the foundation, Thalia Lyn, pointed out that the two CSEC subjects the foundation pays for allows a person to then go on to tertiary education. "Of the six subjects that are required, the Government pays for four while the NCB Foundation pays for the other two."
She explained that the foundation spends approximately $12 million every year to make this a reality. "We have about 4,000 applicants each year so we know how impactful it is," she added."
According to Lyn, the foundation was forced to introduce an affirmative action-type approach to ensure that males were adequately represented in the programme, after realising the females were badly outgunning the males in terms of winning the scholarships.
"We wanted to ensure that the males had an opportunity as well, so we introduced certain criteria that would attract them and improve their chances for success."
In the meantime, the foundation's chief executive officer, Nadine Matthews, said the group recognised early through its scholarship programme that it was primarily supporting students who were pursuing law degrees, medical degrees, and those wanting to be bankers and accountants.
"We recognised that while those careers are important we also had to spare a thought for the emerging industries and the need to prepare Jamaican students to effectively compete on the global front," she said.
"So in recognising this, in 2016 we created a set of scholarships known as ICON," she pointed out. The acronym stands for Innovative, Creative, Outstanding and Nationalistic. We have industries that are emerging from a global standpoint and we wanted to make sure we could support our students in preparing for those industries. This is what the NCB Foundation stands for. This is what we are here to do."