By RON FANFAIR
Jamaican businessman and Kingston College alumnus, Dennis Lalor, has called on past students in the Greater Toronto Area to seriously consider making financial donations to their alma mater which, he said, needs an urgent facelift.
Speaking at the Kingston College Old Boys Association’s (Toronto chapter) 36th annual awards gala recently, the chartered insurer said some Can$35 million is needed to fix the school’s crumbling infrastructure which is impacting negatively on both students and teachers.
“A major problem being experienced at KC is inadequate classroom space,” said Lalor who founded the Insurance Company of the West Indies in 1968. “Presently, there is no sixth form block and students are nomadic, moving from classroom to classroom and waiting under trees for classes to end. Despite the excellent CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Examinations Council) results, some 55 students who qualified to return to sixth form were turned away due to lack of space.
“While I am fully aware of the tremendous assistance you have provided in the past and continuing efforts by members of this chapter, if I may be permitted tonight, I would like to make a plug and seek your individual and collective assistance (in helping our alma mater).”
Over the years, the local chapter has raised thousands of dollars for various KC projects, including the refurbishing of the library and the breakfast and scholarship programs. With the financial assistance of the Carpenters Union of Ontario, the chapter shipped approximately $20,000 worth of tools this year to the college which was established in 1925.
Lalor said the challenges KC faces reflect the social and economic ills afflicting most of the islands’ schools, adding that 50 per cent of Grade 11 students leave school uncertified, 12 per cent of Grade 11 students failed to pass a single exam, 29 per cent of students who sat exams last year passed two or fewer subjects, 63.9 per cent of the inmates incarcerated last year were illiterate, 60.9 per cent of the new prison population is classified as unskilled and 730 of the 1334 inmates incarcerated in 2008 were between the ages of 17 and 30 years.
“We have all learned, I think, that education is undoubtedly the greatest social leveler, the best tool which most people can use to scale barriers of class and open opportunities for economic advancement,” he said. “Of this, those of us who had the privilege of attending KC are well aware and the same holds true for the society at large.
“There is a clear correlation between a country’s achievement in education and its economic achievement. I do not want to be misunderstood, but because of the state of the country’s economy, today large sections of Jamaica’s population are in the most urgent need of various kinds of help, from assistance with school fees and other basic requirements, to physical infrastructure at the schools.”
Lalor, a member of Jamaica’s Privy Council and Order of Jamaica recipient, was presented with the President’s award while lawyer and former Tropicana Community Services Organization board member, Glen Miller, who graduated from KC in 1958, received a Meritorious Service award.
“Both gentlemen are truly deserving of this recognition,” said Toronto chapter president, Lance Seymour.
Seymour also announced that a scholarship will be created to honour the memory of KC alumnus, Maurice MacDonald, who passed away in Toronto last August after a lengthy illness. The academic award will support local students who are related to Toronto alumni members and plan to pursue post-secondary studies.