The UWI, Mona has been introducing new programmes to attract more male applicants, File Photo
UWI men ready to solve world problemsLATER THIS WEEK, hundreds of bright young men will be awarded degrees, having successfully completed their studies at The UWI, Mona.
The new chancellor, Robert Bermudez, will pick up where Sir George Alleyne left off, congratulating each student with a firm handshake.
When that time comes, graduating students like Keino Haughton and Dwayne Haynes will greet Bermudez with smiles radiating the triumph of generations. They are the first in their family to attend university.
The audience will applaud them. But the people who know them well will, perhaps, shed a few happy tears knowing just how hard they fought to make it to this day.
“I feel elated to be the first in my family to graduate from university,” said Haughton, a UWI Township Scholarship recipient from August Town. He is leaving The UWI, Mona with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in Actuarial Science.
Haynes, the youngest of four siblings, carried the weight of his family’s expectations. His siblings and his grandfather counted on him to do well. And the former St Jago head boy, who spent the first eight years of his life in a children’s home and remained a ward of the state up until age 18, did not disappoint them. This week, the 23-year-old will graduate with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in Management Studies.
His journey to graduation day was fraught with financial challenges. In 2013, Haynes registered to study Law even though he did not know how he would fund it. He was chasing a dream, and he drew on his resourcefulness and managed to scrape together a little more than $1 million to fund his first year of study.
“I managed to complete year one, but it was really taxing to try and find over a $1 million a year. Therefore, given the amount of financial stress that I experienced in my first year, I decided to study something else and return to Law at a later date.”
He switched his major to Management Studies, and his financial burdens lessened. “I struggled financially right up until I finished my degree; sometimes I even went without food,” he recalled. Through the help of the Child Development Agency, Haynes received financial assistance from a diaspora-based scholarship foundation – Children of Jamaica Outreach. “I also got some assistance from Burger King (in my first year), and from J Wray and Nephew as well as from Carreras Limited. Haynes, who does a fair amount of volunteer work, expressed gratitude for the support from people at The UWI, Mona. “I could not have done it without support from The UWI, the CDA and a number of other people,” he said.
“I am so happy to say that I am one of those students who, having entered The UWI without knowing where the ‘first red cent’ would come from, is exiting not owing a dollar.”
For Haynes, graduation day is “not just about him”. It’s about all the people who helped him along the way. It’s about the people in his Ewarton, St Catherine community who rooted for him. But more than that, graduation day is about his 86-year-old grandfather, his two brothers, and his sister. “They are all so excited; even more than I am. It is as if they are the ones who will be graduating on Saturday,” he told UWIMONA Now.
For Odain Murray, who will graduate with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in Marketing, the day is shaping up to be a community affair. Murray hails from Flanker, a tough community in Montego Bay, St James, where young men who matriculate to university may earn celebrity status. Murray is the first person from his “mother’s side of the family to attend university, and only the second from “his father’s side” of the family.
“A ‘busload’ of family and other people from the community are planning to attend graduation,” the 28-year-old confided.
Like Haynes, the Cornwall College graduate had initially dreamed of becoming a lawyer. “I started out studying History, but then my father died and I had to withdraw from university because of financial hardships.” Murray worked for close to four years in the Arts and the Creative Industries, before returning to The UWI to continue his studies. He was determined to see it through the second time around because so many people were relying on him to succeed. “Whenever I went home, the high school students would ask about university life.” Murray said students would also list the subjects they are studying, and ask for guidance in getting accepted to The UWI. He admitted that he found the attention “all at once both pressuring and inspiring”.
He explained: “It was pressuring because my family and the other people expected so much from me, and I felt that I could not let them down. And it was inspiring because you could see that these young people were thinking that if I am attending university, then they too can aspire to do so.”
UWI Township scholars like Odane Grant and Keino Haughton know the importance of giving back to their communities.
Grant is from Hermitage in the Greater August Town area, and he has been assisting with the homework programme at the Mona Common Basic School as part of The UWI Township Scholarship requirement. He helps students at the primary and secondary levels with their assignments. “While helping these students with their academics, I also implore them to aim high as education is the key to success,” Grant said. He is leading by example, and will graduate this week with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in Accounting.
For his part, Haughton has tutored at Kairos Network, formerly the Source, in Bryce Hill Square, and the Mona Common Basic School. In addition, he teaches CSEC Mathematics at the Hope Outreach Centre.
Haughton, Haynes, Murray and Grant will be in good company on their special day. They will join groups of entrepreneurs, engineers, graphic designers, scientists, lawyers and other trained professionals, marching proudly alongside their female colleagues at one of four ceremonies scheduled for Nov 3 and 4 in the Graduation Tent.
Twenty-seven-year-old Sean Pierre Reid is also looking forward to marching with his favourite batchmate at the Saturday morning ceremony. He will graduate with his mother, Joan Williams. He will be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing with a minor in Social Psychology, while Williams will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Management with a minor in Management Studies. Incidentally, Williams has two daughters currently enroled at The UWI, Mona, and her last son, Darien, is currently attending Pre-University School. He plans to matriculate to The UWI, Mona to pursue a degree in Entrepreneurship.
Over the last couple of years, The UWI, Mona has been introducing new programmes aimed at attracting more male applicants like Sean and his brother Darien, and Haughton, Haynes, Murray and Grant. The institution has been making modest gains, chipping away at the imbalance in the male to female distribution on the campus.
In addition to tailoring its programmes to attract more men, the institution also offers scholarships and bursaries to needy students. For 2015/2016 the total financial assistance offered to UWI students was around $800 million.