Victoria Mutual provides online boost for 21 students preparing for CSEC

THE Victoria Mutual (VM) Group has decided to assist 21 students who are struggling to participate in online classes because of access challenges.

VM’s 2020 Labour Day project, dubbed ‘Labour for Learning’, saw the group donating ‘digital education kits’ to the students across the island.

The kits include a laptop, loaded with Microsoft Office Suite, and a smartphone equipped with a three-month data plan.

These are expected to provide a significant boost to the students who had been struggling to keep up with their peers who already had the tools to transition seamlessly to online classes.

When schools were closed and classes moved online in March, as part of efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, many Jamaican students faced a major challenge because of a lack of resources.

Among the hardest hit were students preparing for Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams. Without laptops, cellphones and data service, many of these promising students faced an uphill task to successfully sit the exams.

Assistant vice-president for corporate affairs and communications at VM Clover Moore said that the ‘Labour for Learning’ initiative is in keeping with the group’s focus on inclusion.

“The move to online learning has highlighted the inequity that exists in the country and the way that it can stymie the progress of our students. It’s not enough to be hard-working, students must have access to the necessary tools so that they can excel,” said Moore.

“Access and inclusion have been part of what drives the Victoria Mutual Group since our founding, and we are happy to step in and help level the playing field for these students who are doing the right thing by working hard but for whom a lack of resources has been a major stumbling block.

“We are thrilled to provide that missing link for them so that they can achieve their full potential,” added Moore.

Among the recipients of VM’s digital education kits was 17-year-old Javanah Brooks, a fifth-form student of St George’s College in Kingston.

Brooks lives in Arnett Gardens in south St Andrew and is subject to the many well-known challenges and temptations of living in a gritty community. His father passed away when he was only a year old, leaving a significant gap in his life.

However, with support from his older brother, his mother and teachers, Brooks is excelling in school and will be sitting eight CSEC exams in July.

When Brooks visited VM’s Half-Way-Tree Branch last Saturday, he was in for a surprise.

When asked by branch manager Allison Morgan how he was managing preparations for his impending exams, Brooks bit his bottom lip and explained that he was struggling as classes have been taking place via Zoom, the online meeting platform.

“But I don’t have a laptop or a smartphone, so I can’t join the Zoom classes. This is a challenge for me because interaction helps me to learn better,” said Brooks.

Unable to attend classes, Brooks would routinely call his teachers and classmates at nights to talk about lessons that were taught in the online classes.

“My teachers are always there for me and they help me to keep up as much as possible,” added Brooks.

The promising schoolboy was overcome with joy when Morgan revealed that he would be receiving a VM digital education kit, providing him with the access he yearned for and enabling him to stay on top of his lessons as the CSEC exams draw near.

“I really want to thank Victoria Mutual for helping me in my studies and giving me an opportunity to make a future for myself and my family,” said Brooks.

Orane Shaw, physics teacher at St George’s College, also thanked VM for intervening.

“This is really a great initiative. We’re all aware of the challenges being faced by many students and even teachers. As someone in the education field, I can say that what VM is doing really means a lot,” said Shaw.

Presentations to deserving students continued on Sunday and Monday across the island.

Courts Jamaica and Flow provided VM with the items in the digital education kit at a reduced cost.

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