High praise for local Jamaica College alumni



The Jamaica College Old Boys Association of Canada (JCOBACA) stands heads and shoulders above their counterparts in Jamaica and the rest of North America, says the school’s principal Ruel Reid.

Reid expressed appreciation for the support shown over the past two decades at the organization’s 23rd annual dinner and dance last Saturday night in Brampton.

This was his second visit to Toronto in the past four months following his participation in an education conference here last November.

“This is the number one alumni chapter,” Reid told Share. “They are well organized, they have made significant financial contributions to the school as a collective and they were very vocal in calling for the changes and the transformation that Jamaica College (JC) is currently undergoing. They are by far the most vibrant alumni chapter.”

The JCOBACA has donated computers, printers, overhead projectors, microscopes, educational software and books over the years.

“We have six computer labs and nearly 200 computers which are more than most high schools in the country,” said Reid. “The alumni group in Canada has consistently demonstrated its commitment to ensure that we have the technological equipment we need. They are to be complimented for their love of country and love of school. They just don’t talk, but they are putting their money in the right place to benefit our students.”

With the economy ailing and the government cash-strapped, Reid said the success of Jamaica’s schools will be largely dependent on partnerships involving alumni groups and other stakeholders.

“That’s why I suggest that alumni don’t necessarily have to give to their old school, but they can contribute to any Jamaican school that’s in need if they can do so,” he said.

A former Jamaica Teachers Association president, Reid was appointed JC’s principal five years ago at a time when the school was struggling to cope with indiscipline and experiencing declining academic standards.

Reid chose JC over Edwin Allen and Rusea’s, which had also made him offers.

“JC had the greatest need and that’s why I took the job,” he said. “It was not easy at first because when I got there I found there was also a lack of staff accountability and professionalism. That meant that nearly 80 per of the staff was relieved of their jobs as part of the transition to get the academic institution back to its rightful place as one of the country’s top high schools.

“Academic performances are rising to acceptable levels and the rebranding process has enabled us to attract quality students.”

The all-boys school enrolment is approximately 1,760 which is almost 350 more than when Reid took over as principal.

Considered an out-of-the box-thinker and innovator, Reid introduced an aviation course into the school’s curriculum two years ago. Alumni and other stakeholders finance the initiative that cost each student nearly Can$205 annually.

“I don’t believe education should be static,” said Reid who attended Munro College where he was the head prefect, tuck shop manager and later master teacher and housemaster. “It’s dynamic and we must produce students that are prepared to fit into the new demands of the 21st Century. Very often, there’s the construct of the straight theory without the practical. JC is not a school that’s known for technical education, but current requirements focus on technology and technology application which will likely provide the kind of niche for us to aid our social advancement.

“The aviation program will point our kids in that direction because it’s high technology and high paying. Tourism is Jamaica’s main foreign exchange earner and we can’t have tourism without aviation. There are far too many students in our schools who are not sure why they are there because they are pursuing courses that lead to certifications that do not match their skills or the jobs that are out there.”

A graduate of the University of the West Indies, Bethlehem Moravian College and Nova Southeastern University, Reid plans to introduce an executive chef course at JC in the next two years.

Established in 1789 by Barbadian Charles Drax, JC has produced 17 Rhodes Scholars, including late Premier Norman Manley and his son, the late Michael Manley, Jamaica’s fourth Prime Minister; current PM Bruce Golding and former West Indies cricket captain Jimmy Adams.

JC is Jamaica’s third oldest high school behind Wolmer’s and Manning’s established in 1729 and 1738 respectively.

The JCOBACA executive comprises Charles Francis (president), Edmund Moore (vice-president), Austin Daley (treasurer), Alvin Beckford (secretary) and Michael Burnett, Henry Sterling, Philip Mascoll and Kerith McLeod (directors).

Past students seeking to become members or individuals interested in supporting JC can send an e-mail to info@jcobaca.org for more details.

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