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Principal of Manning’s School in Westmoreland, Steve Gordon, believes that the school’s recently opened STEM Centre will inspire a new level of learning among students and expose them to careers in science, technology, education, and mathematics that they may not have ordinarily thought about.

The first of its kind in Western Jamaica, the Victor Lowe STEM Centre, as it is called, was officially opened on the school grounds on March 10 and is named after past student and scientist, Victor Lowe, who contributed most of the funds to build the centre. The day was also celebrated as the launch of STEM Day at the institution.

“We expect a new level of thrust in terms of their learning. Things have changed. The educational landscape has changed. In the past, students used to swot for examinations and sometimes, for example, they cannot make that connection between mathematics and the real world and [they] ask, ‘Why is it that we have to study all these subjects?’ And when we go out there, we don’t understand what we need to do using these concepts. While that is not necessarily the case at all times, we feel that solving real world problems, is through S.T.E.M education,” he pointed out.

Steve Gordon, Principal of Manning’s School

Mr Gordon says the centre will facilitate the launch of the high school’s ‘Brain STEM’ programme, which will allow students to incorporate robotics, coding and general science, along with mathematics and engineering, into their studies.

He explained that students from other institutions in the parish will also be able to benefit from the centre.

“We are proud that we have been able to launch such a centre which is not just for Manning’s School students, but we are going to, as best as possible, expose other students, in and around the environment to what it is that we have,” he noted. “Through the STEM Club, we are at least going to try and engage students from outside to partake in activities that is steered towards STEM education.”

Mr Gordon said the move to include students from other institutions in their activities is not new, as other students are invited to participate when Manning’s hosts its mathematics conferences.

Victor Lowe, a member of the Manning’s School graduating class of 1967, said he was motivated to contribute to the establishment of the centre to engage, empower and prepare youth for the current global environment.

“We know too well how society has been plagued by challenges, mostly from youths. And we need to engage them. The more we engage them, we keep them away from the more unsavoury activities,” he explained. “STEM is more hands-on and gets them more engaged and so we hope that as they gravitate to the science, technology and engineering components, they will relate these pieces to their everyday lives.”

His contribution to the school was matched by JN Bank, which pledged $1 million towards providing equipment for the centre.

Saniah Spencer (right) JN Group marketing and product development chief, hands over a cheque for $1 million dollars to Steve Gordon, principal of the Manning’s School, which will go towards purchasing equipment for the Centre.

“We thank you [JN Bank] for your contribution, and we look forward to the continued input. What it does for us is it becomes a pacesetter because if JN Bank is on board then it is easier to knock on other doors to bring them along,” he said.

Petal Hall, sales executive at The Jamaica National Group, said STEM education is important to JN Bank because it positions Jamaicans to take advantage of a wider range of opportunities and it will assist the country to strengthen its contribution and its status in the wider global community.

“We are convinced that education is the sector that will most affect our outcome and developing centres of excellence, such as this STEM academy, will assist to focus and nuance the training needed to deepen our impact on the future of our country and the world,” she said in her address at the opening of the facility.

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon Fayval Williams, who officially opened the centre, called its establishment timely and complements the Government of Jamaica’s efforts to provide full scholarships to train some 1,250 teachers in STEM over the next five years.

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