NAIN, St Elizabeth - It's been closed since 2009, but alumina processors Alpart, through its Russian owners UC Rusal in partnership with the Alpart Community Council, this year granted 450 students a total of $2.3 million to offset school-related expenses.
The students were drawn from early childhood to tertiary institutions in the company's operating areas, and were awarded on the bases of need and academic merit. A hundred and fifty-eight of them received special awards for having gained averages of 75 per cent and above at the Grade Six Achievement Test, the company's public relations officer Julian Keane said.
The community council, which acts through its business unit Essex Valley Community and Associates, manages the descaling, janitorial, landscaping, sewage plant treatment and other maintenance needs of the mothballed Alpart plant.
Administrator Camilla Blake explained that the EVC was established to ensure that the company's employment needs are sourced from within the surrounding communities as well as to ensure that funds earned from contracts at Alpart are put back into the community for project assistance programmes.
Community institutions to have benefited include fire stations, community and health centres, and schools. Blake said 32 of the 51 projects done to date were related to education.
"The Council, in partnership with Alpart, has sought innovative ways to promote economic and social growth in the local communities. We recognise that education is important to community development. A lot of the projects that we do focus on education and focus on upgrading educational institutions in our communities," she said.
Addressing the recent handover, Dr Jerome Miller-Vaz, head of sites at the University of the West Indies Open Campus, Western Zone, said children should be encouraged to pursue careers for which they have an interest and not what is considered acceptable by adults.
"Parents, teachers, guardians, give these youngsters a chance to achieve and become the geniuses that they are all born to become. Adults, you may have to change the existing culture of telling your children what to become and instead allow them to exercise the gift that they were born with. We need every career that exists. Whatever your children choose, help to make them be the best they can. Reason with these recipients [who] are here today and work with them. They have the potential and they have shown promise. Gone are the days when jobs are scoffed upon," she said.