Western Hospitality Institute undergoes US$10-m renovationSaturday, December 12, 2020
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
NEGRIL, Westmoreland — Students of Western Hospitality Institute (WHI) who have been having challenges accessing the Internet are now breathing a sigh of relief, following the refurbishing of a section of the Negril campus — which was gutted by fire in 2005 — by the Government of Japan at a cost of US$10 million.
The two-storey building, which forms part of what was the then Devine Destiny Hotel in Westmoreland, houses two computer rooms, three classrooms, one library, and eight training rooms. It was refurbished under Japan's Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects Programme.
Eladio Vassell, principal of WHI, told the Jamaica Observer that the refurbished building will assist students who are having challenges accessing their education online.
“The refurbishing aspect of the programme now will benefit the students in so many ways, because what we're able to offer now is a library service, we're able to offer computer lab, but most importantly, we're able to have students being in an environment where they are comfortable and able to gain meaningful education, especially now with COVID-19 and with the ministry and the country doing online and blended-approach classes,” Vassell explained.
“We do have students who are not able to access the Internet from home. So, now we have a lab, we have more classrooms where we could set up the Wi-Fi, we could set up instruments for students [to] come to campus physically while maintaining the social distancing protocol set up by the Ministry of [Health] and have access to their education just the same, and not be left behind,” the principal added.
During the handover ceremony at the Negril campus on Tuesday, Japan's ambassador to Jamaica Masaya Fujiwara expressed hope that the refurbished facility will help students excel.
“I do hope that this new environment will enable all the students training to excel in their area of training that is a value-added education, and the skills training opportunity will strengthen the capacity of the hospitality sector in Westmoreland and across Jamaica, as a country tries to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic with the opening of the Jamaica tourism sector,” Ambassador Masaya said.
The ambassador noted, too, that in the areas of education, tourism, agriculture, and other critical areas of development, this grassroots project has contributed further to consolidating the long-standing relationship between Jamaica and Japan.
“Education is one of the priority areas of the offshore development policy of Japan, and likewise, we have been assisting many schools and the vocational institutions across Jamaica to refurbish facilities for building new infrastructure under this grant programme.
“Let's continue to build a bridge of friendship, partnership and the mutual cooperation of matters of importance to both our nations,” urged the ambassador.
Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, Bertel Moore, in his remarks, noted that the parish of Westmoreland and Japan has had a good relationship over the years.
The grateful mayor disclosed that a few years ago, the parish received two fire trucks and two ambulances from the Japanese. In fact, the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation is also twinned with the Japanese city of Tottori Prefecture.
“I want to say to Ambassador [Masaya], we in Westmoreland are grateful for what the embassy has been doing for us, and I would just like to say thanks to [former] Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe for the support he is giving to our country…,” said Mayor Moore.
Vassell also expressed gratitude to the people of Japan.
“Mr Ambassador, we the people of Jamaica, and by extension board of directors, management and staff, and students of Western Hospitality Institute, is extremely grateful, humbled and thankful to the people of Japan and your Government for their significant contribution to nation-building through the Japanese grassroots project, to a developing country such as Jamaica, whereby children from depressed communities here in Negril and adjoining communities in Westmoreland can access quality education in [comfort],” he said.
The project is the brainchild of Kevin Simpson, a vice-principal at WHI with responsibility for facility development, workforce development and the National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica Career Advancement Programme, who is also a past student of the institution.
Simpson said an application was made to the Japanese grant programme for assistance in April 2018, after he was introduced to the programme by a WHI staff member. The project was approved in January 2019.
The 32-year-old institution, which started as a small baking institution in Montego Bay, later transitioned to offering diploma and degree programmes, and is now fully accredited by the University Council of Jamaica and the Accreditation Service for International Schools, Colleges and Universities based in the United Kingdom.
WHI currently has three campuses — St James, Negril, and Manchester — with an enrolment of more than 1,200 students.
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