Regional

Alpart backs chalk to white board changeover

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 11, 2014    

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Having spent many years in the classroom, Delorica Myers, vice- principal of Ballards Valley Primary, can speak with authority on the health hazards of using chalk.

"Chalk (dust) sometimes gets on the lungs," she told the Jamaica Observer. "That's not good," she added.

Myers and fellow teachers from 15 schools in South East St Elizabeth and South Manchester were at the Apart Sports Club at Nain to receive letters of commitment from the Alpart Community Council for the changeover of chalkboards to whiteboards in the classroom.

"With the whiteboards we will now use markers... no dust ,so that's the safe and good thing about it," said Myers.

Chairman of the Alpart Community Council Len Blake said $500,000 is being spent by the Alpart Community Council through its business unit Essex Valley Community & Associates (EVC) for the chalk-to-whiteboard changeover.

The schools are all in and around the mining areas of the Alpart alumina plant at Nain. The plant has been closed since 2009 because of high energy costs and a slump in the global economy.

However, the community council, through its business unit, has continued to supply workers -- on a rotational basis -- to maintain the mothballed plant.

The arrangement has facilitated the accumulation of small surpluses to fund projects such as the chalk-to-whiteboard changeover.

Leaders of the council say dozens of community projects - most supportive of schools -- valued at over $10 million have been implemented during the last four years.

"If we can do this when the plant is closed, can you imagine what will happen when we do get back into operation," said managing director of Alpart, Timothy O'Driscoll. The latter has consistently insisted that in time, Alpart which is owned by Russian aluminium giant UC Rusal will reopen.

Speakers at the function said the chalk-to-whiteboard changeover was another step to modernise classrooms. Soon, they suggested, classrooms will have to be supported by electronic aids including Internet connectivity.

"Investment in modernising classrooms is very important to meet the needs of this generation,' said Orville Johnson who represented the Ministry of Education's Region Five.

And Member of Parliament for South East St Elizabeth Richard Parchment said that new technologies would have to be at the forefront for young Jamaicans to become "competitive and ready for the working world".

Member of Parliament for South Manchester Michael Peart emphasised the need for even-handed, standardised education for all children as an urgent goal for the society.

"We have to stress that whether the child comes from Negril, Morant Point, South Manchester, Kingston or Montego Bay, they must be exposed to the same level and quality of education," he said.

That he said would allow all children to attend schools closest to them instead of the unsafe and expensive practice of children having to travel long distances to go to school.

"We still have the problem of hundreds of children travelling from South Manchester to go to Mandeville and then children leaving Mandeville to come to school in South Manchester. It don't mek no sense," said Peart.

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