Some 300 agriculture students from secondary, tertiary and vocational institutions will benefit from the Rio Tinto scholarships and bursaries valued at $23.5 million this year through the Rio Tinto Legacy Fund.
The recipients, selected from among 504 applicants from Manchester, St. Catherine and St. Ann, represent the largest cohort since the fund’s inception in 2010.
Students at the tertiary level will receive full and half scholarships covering tuition, while those at the secondary level will receive bursaries for books, transportation, meals, and examination fees.
The scholarship programme is funded by Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. (formerly Alcan) through investments in Jamaica under the management of the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and is managed by the Jamaica 4-H Clubs.
Acting Business and Entrepreneurship Development Manager from the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Villet Kelly-Bennett, said that the scholarship is aimed at attracting more youth to agriculture and to help them to obtain the necessary education, which will ultimately help to raise standards in the industry.
“The whole idea is that we’re trying to get youth to be more involved and more attracted to agriculture. So we’re trying to use our agriculture scholarship programmes plus the 4-H Clubs education programmes to raise the level, raise the bar of the participants in a sector,” she said in an interview with JIS News.
Mrs. Kelly-Bennett noted that effort is made to increase the number of awards each year, noting that 277 Rio Tinto scholarships were issued in 2019.
She said that the feedback from the recipients over the years has been positive and the recipients have had success in landing jobs in the sector or in starting their own businesses.
“Most persons said without the scholarship, tertiary education would have been a far-fetched dream for them,” she said, noting that a number of the students have indicated that they are the first in their family to attend a tertiary institution.
Mrs. Kelly-Bennett said that the Rio Tinto scholarships programme augurs well for the future of the country’s agricultural sector.
“The fact that more educated persons will enter the [sector], means that they will adopt more best practices, they will utilise more technology, and it is expected that the productivity level of the sector should exponentially increase,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, with an impact study indicating that most of the scholarship applicants are female, Mrs. Kelly-Bennett told JIS News that the Jamaica 4-H Clubs has started a mentorship programme to encourage and direct more males towards targeting agriculture as a career choice.
“We will also, through our clubs, be setting up some programmes that will attract the males, so we are trying to identify some new strategies now,”Mrs. Kelly-Bennett said.
“We want to use technology as one of the main strategies because, most times, the younger ones associate agriculture with machete and that sort of thing. What we will be doing this year, for example, at our national achievement expo, is to showcase a number of new technologies that are being utilised in agriculture,” she added.
Source: The Jamaica Information Services | Written by: Tanesha Mundle