Sat | Jul 31, 2021

Shun education investment at your peril, businesses warned

Published:Thursday | February 4, 2021 | 12:17 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and St Andrew West Rural Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn engage Stony Hill Infant, Primary and Junior High School students Selicia Clarke (second left) and Stashia Benbow in discussion at yesterday’s opening of
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and St Andrew West Rural Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn engage Stony Hill Infant, Primary and Junior High School students Selicia Clarke (second left) and Stashia Benbow in discussion at yesterday’s opening of a resource room at the Rock Valley Community Centre in Stony Hill, St Andrew.

With nearly three-quarters of his 527 students failing to log on to classes online, a St Andrew principal is warning that Jamaica will pay dearly if it fails to make the necessary urgent investment in education now.

Eric Smith, principal of the Stony Hill Infant, Primary and Junior High School, made the declaration while addressing yesterday’s official opening of a resource room at the Rocky Valley Community Centre in Stony Hill, which was rehabilitated at a cost of $5.1 million. The room has also been equipped with 11 desktop computers, with Internet service being provided by the Universal Service Fund.

Smith highlighted the importance of such an investment in helping to bridge the digital divide in St Andrew West Rural.

“Over 70 per cent of our students since March last year have not been accessing online platform classes. With a resource centre like this being opened this morning, it will open the way for many students in the Stony Hill community to do the same, and I am assured that that 70 per cent will be reduced drastically,” he said.

The principal expressed gratitude to Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn and others who contributed to the effort.

Speaking further, he urged the business community to get on board in supporting similar projects, saying that failure to do so would be to their detriment.

“If some of our business people in community could log on and assist with education, then the businesses in Stony Hill would not need so many security guards. Some of us are reaping from the community, but we not giving back, and I am sorry that I am not seeing anybody from the business community this morning, but we must get them on track to support education,” Smith said. “If we don’t support education today – do it fast – Inspector Harris (subofficer in charge of Stony Hill Police Station) is going to have it very difficult in the near future.

“We need to go out here and get more of these resources centres opened, using abandoned factories in the constituency and enlist the churches to be a part of it, ... because after the pandemic, we are going to be faced with a crisis if we don’t correct it now.”

The educator also appealed to residents to protect the investment.

“I am appealing to the Stony Hill community, we need to take of what is given to us today. ... Watch over them so that all of us can benefit from it and it can serve its purpose,” he urged them.

Stony Hill Councillor Tosha Schwapp said that the resource room would put the world at the residents’ fingertips.

“This project couldn’t be more timely because our children need a way to get on with their online classes. You have the opportunity now. You have no more excuses why you can’t be online or in a class. Everything is at your doorstep. We are a country that wants to ensure that we are knowledge based and we have brought it to your doorstep,” she added.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com