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Serious Knox

Community College is nation builder, says new principal

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

Monday, April 21, 2014    

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SPALDING, Clarendon — Dr Gordon Cowans, new principal of the 38-year-old Knox Community College, is in no doubt that national development depends on education and that his institution has a lead role to play.

"Knox Community College is open for business, the elusive economic growth and development of Jamaica is hinged on the education of our people," Cowans told a cheering audience during his formal installation at the community college's campus last month.

Cowans, who has replaced Caswell McLeish who retired last year, said the community college with its four campuses in Spalding, Mandeville, May Pen, and Cobbla would not be turned from its core mandate to serve Jamaican youth.

"No bwoy pon no corner is to be left with any excuse for not improving himself and to (continue) rolling ganja spliff inna di middle of him han. No high school girl needs to feel that she cannot maximise her potential (because of a) lack of financial support," said Cowans, who was formerly principal of Knox College (the high school).

"Education is for life, educational opportunities are lifelong, education at its best must enhance the quality of community life...," he declared.

Central Jamaica, Cowans claimed, was "poised to be the knowledge capital of our island" and Knox was well placed to play its role.

Operated by the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Knox Community College conducts over 50 programmes in a variety of subjects.

A graduate of Excelsior High School, United Theological College of the West Indies, Church Teachers' College, Columbia Theological College, USA, and University of Melbourne in Australia, Cowans was ordained in the United Church in 1986.

He served as minister at Scots Kirk in Kingston, earning respect for his role in inner-city development. He was appointed principal at Knox College in 1994 and stayed for 20 years until December last year.

Admirers at last month's installation described Cowans as a strong-willed, dedicated, innovative and courageous educator with a strong sense of responsibility to community and nation.

Rose Wedderburn, deputy general secretary of the United Church's Southern Regional Mission Council, presented Cowans with seeds, symbolic of the Biblical mustard seed.

"You have the responsibility to grow the college further...," Wedderburn told Cowans, who is the fourth principal of the community college.

"Many students will come to this college, some with a lot of capacity, some with little. Under your leadership all should leave with more than they came...," Wedderburn said.

Guest speaker at the function, Dr Collin Cowan, the Singapore-based general secretary of the Council for World Mission — a global community of Christian churches — said Cowans was well-equipped to take on the challenges at Knox Community College.

"I believe you have what it takes to build a formidable foundation that will contribute to a new Jamaica where theory and practice converge; where leadership with integrity is on the same page as academic excellence and where the whole country can look to academic institutions for informed guidance towards moral and spiritual reconstruction of the social fabric," Cowan said.

Parliamentarians Richard Azan, junior minister in the transport, works and housing ministry and MP for North West Clarendon, as well as former finance minister Audley Shaw, MP for North East Manchester, were among others paying rich tribute to the new principal.

The installation ceremony was preceded by College Day, an annual exposition featuring exhibits by the Knox Community College and stakeholder partners. It was attended by scores of students from feeder schools and community residents.

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