They are leaving us, one by one. Like migrating birds.
These are not sad departures however, even though there is a certain amount of nervousness involved. The eleven Jamaican Chevening Scholars received official blessings on a humid Sunday afternoon on the lawns of the British High Commission, after a pre-departure session two days earlier.
The Chevening Scholarship is the UK Government’s global scholarship program, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and partner organizations. Scholars are selected for their potential as future leaders, decision-makers and opinion-shapers, on their return to their various countries. There were over 1,500 scholarships globally in 2015/16. The number of Jamaicans has increased dramatically due to increased funding. There were just three Jamaicans last year; one of them, Alicia Maragh, is featured on the Chevening banner worldwide. This year’s group will all be pursuing Master’s degrees in the UK for one year.
The Chevening Eleven (six men, five women) are, of course, heading in the wrong direction at this time of year. Now is the time when northern nights grow chilly, and days grow shorter. A large part of the discussion at the pre-departure briefing last Friday was about the English weather, keeping warm, always carrying an umbrella, and staying healthy; take lots of Vitamin C all the time, I would advise! A past scholar who addressed the group, Edgar Bennett (who attended the University of South Wales in Cardiff) said he “never really adjusted to the weather.” It takes much longer than a year to adjust, I would say. The soft-spoken Mr. Bennett, who studied forensic science in 2013/14, said he was often surprised by interactions with people from different cultures in the UK. “I had unexpected moments of kindness,” he said. He learned to be more respectful, more tolerant, and to appreciate the diverse society, and enjoyed the variety of experience and the friendships he made.
British High Commissioner David Fitton emphasized this important aspect of the Chevening program when he addressed the scholars. “It is an opportunity to network,” he pointed out, “to get to know others, develop friendships and partnerships.” We all know networking is more important than ever these days; but it should be with a purpose and, eventually, to create impact. One often does not recognize the (mutual) benefits at the time, but developing such relationships very often turns into something valuable. HC Fitton also reminded the scholars:“Think about the impact you want to make on your return.”
The Sunday afternoon tea party was a celebration, with family, friends and supporters of the outgoing scholars – who all looked very stylish. A great deal of tea was sipped (at least, by me) – the Indian Chai was superb. The High Commission’s best china was out. Tables were spread on the expansive lawns, and after short speeches from the High Commissioner and Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, certificates were handed out. Then, more tea, and a great deal of nibbling.
I sat down with Tenesha Myrie and her family – her sister and parents from the cool hills of Christiana, Manchester. An attorney at law with a special interest in human rights and women’s issues, Tenesha will be studying for a Master’s in Public Policy at Oxford University’s newest college, Green Templeton College – right in the heart of the city. I felt a strong twinge of both envy and nostalgia, Oxford being my alma mater. I know it will be a richly rewarding experience for Tenesha.
After we had sipped our tea, guests began to mingle a little. I visited a few tables, including one where Chevening Scholar Chadine Allen sat next to a Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Damion McIntosh (Damion, I do recall, was selected by the Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the United States as the Most Outstanding MBA student for the academic year 2007/2008 and went on to complete his Ph.D. there). Chadine, for her part, will be attending the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London to pursue a Master’s in Migration, Mobility and Development – an interesting field that is becoming increasingly relevant.
What are the others doing? Let me list the names of the wonderful people whom I have not named above…
- Apart from Oroyo Eubanks, there is another media person, whose warm voice is very familiar to me on the radio. Rashawn Thompson of Nationwide News Network will be pursuing a Master’s of Arts Degree in International Media Business at the University of Westminster. Oroyo will also be at Westminster, studying for a Master’s in Media and Development.
- Attorney-at-law Grace Lindo, who practices intellectual property and commercial law at Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Co. in Kingston, will pursue a Masters of Law in Information Technology and Intellectual Property Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
- Another attorney-at-law who is employed by the Jamaican Government, the inimitable Adley Duncan, will be reading for a Master of Laws in Human Rights Law at University College, London.
- Assistant Superintendent of Police Gordon Ellison will pursue a Master’s in Organized Crime, Terrorism and Security at the University of Essex.
- Melissa Townsend is a Project Engineer at the National Water Commission; she will pursue a Master’s in Civil Engineering with a focus on Environmental Engineering and Engineering Management at the University of Southampton (what could be more important than water, for Jamaica?)
- Jerome Cowans, an internationally known development advocate, will pursue a Master’s in Management at the University of Birmingham.
- Sherika Whitelocke-Ballingsingh is a licensed Public Health Inspector with the Western Regional Health Authority; she will pursue a Master’s in Public Health International at the University of Leeds (and yes, Sherika, it does get rather cold up there!)
- Lavare Henry, who teaches at Campion College, wants to research how to effectively lead and manage change in educational institutions. He will be pursing an MSc. in Education (Leadership and Policy) at the excellent “red brick” University of Bristol.
What more is there to say, except to wish all the Chevening Scholars well? Jamaica will miss you; but make the most of all your opportunities. Then again, I know you will!