AS the world continues to grapple with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, one group that is pulling out all the stops to keep their alma mater afloat is the Jamaica College Old Boys Association (JCOBA).
Two months into the COVID-19 crisis, Jamaica College has seen almost all of its supplemental income sources dry up, putting the school in a truly dire situation.
“Right now we are under extreme pressure to keep the operational functions at 189 Old Hope Road going in a meaningful way, as almost all of our supplemental revenue streams have ground to a halt,” says Jamaica College Principal Wayne Robinson. “In order to utilise current online classroom technology to keep the learning going, we now have to invest in our teaching-technology solutions such as hardware [tablets and laptops], software, and Wi-Fi data access, while continuing to pay utilities and ground maintenance. With no rental income from our auditorium, sporting or classroom facilities, no lunch sales from our cafeteria, and minimal collection of outstanding fees from our parents, we have also had to cut staff – cut pay or cut hours. One extremely important group that has been hardest hit is our supplemental teachers and administrators who are paid directly by us and not by the Ministry of Education. These persons are critical in our drive to continue to elevate Jamaica College’s academic standards.”
In response, the very active local and overseas chapters of the JCOBA have pooled their resources to launch the Jamaica College Big Brothers COVID-19 Rescue Plan, aimed at raising funds to offset some of these salaries and to support the technology-based learning that has replaced chalk and talk.
Major Basil Jarrett, president of the local chapter of the JCOBA, says that the plans have been in the works for some time, but the constantly shifting priorities and uncertain future made it difficult to finalise.
“We also had to contend with the fact that everyone, including our most generous old boys, is feeling the economic crunch,” he said, “and so we had to devise a plan that shared the burden widely and reduced individual pressure”.
What the old boys have ultimately created is a singular pooled effort targeting $1 million a month for at least the next three months.
Mark Delfosse, president of the Canada Chapter of the JCOBA, pointed out that, “Once we were able to do an assessment of the most critical needs, it was relatively easy to get buy-in and support from the guys. What was not so easy was the mechanism to get the donations to Jamaica as Canadian laws make it a bit difficult to send cash directly to the school.”
That’s where the one-year-old JCOBA Big Brother programme came in. Under that programme, JC old boys are able to help current students to attend school by setting aside a monthly contribution which goes towards breakfast, lunch, books, bus fare, uniforms, and tuition.
The programme has a number of built-in channels such as walk-in or online bank deposits, PayPal transfers, GoFundMe and Cash App options, which allow any old boy from any location to donate from as little as $50 to the effort.
“Even though we know our old boys love and support the college, we had to be mindful that they too are under financial pressure,” said Ian Bryan, treasurer of the JCOBA Florida. “As a result, we designed the programme in such a way that each chapter only has to generate a fairly manageable target of $300,000 or about US$$2,000 per month for the next three months, beginning the end of May. This not only makes it more realistic, but also more sustainable.”
Carl Bennett, president of JCOBA New York hailed the move as an example for all schools and alumni associations to follow.
“Right now, all of our beloved educational institutions are under pressure. It is up to us as past students and old boys to step up to the plate and help share the burden, no matter how small.”
In order to make a donation to the JCOBA Big Brother COVID-19 Rescue Plan, individuals can visit any of the JCOBA Facebook and Instagram pages, associations, and school website, for information on the walk-in or online bank deposits, PayPal transfers, GoFundMe and Cash App options. Those interested can also call the local JCOBA office at 876-487-2826 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if they need more information.
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