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Right across the country, there are schools bearing the names of persons who have served their community and country with a strong spirit of patriotism. But, sadly, to many students attending those schools today, they are just names that bear significance only in so far as there is pride in their alma mater.
Herbert Morrison Technical High School may very well be an exception. On this occasion, however, and recognizing that you are still celebrating your 40th anniversary, I hope you will be inspired by the fact that your school bears the name of one of Jamaica’s distinguished doctors and outstanding philanthropists, Dr. Herbert Morrison, whose practice was on Market Street, in the heart of downtown Montego Bay.
As a physician, his clinic was always crowded with patients who could hardly afford a private doctor but knew that they would not be turned away from Market Street.
In addition, Montego Bay has always had its fair share of street children and others, who had homes, but whose parents could not afford the cost of sending them to school. Dr. Herbert Morrison paid the tuition of many and those boys who preferred to hang out on the streets knew where to go on a daily basis to be fed a healthy meal, all thanks to the kindness and generosity of this doctor who was later to become Custos of the Parish of St. James.
As a former teacher myself, and someone who is committed to help in lifting the standard of education of the nation’s children, I am proud of Herbert Morrison Technical High School.
In today’s Jamaica, where we have become preoccupied with the wanton use of destructive weapons, I am reminded by Nelson Mandela that quote Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world end quote.
Over the past four decades, your school, popularly known was Compre, has carved out an enviable niche in western Jamaica as the secondary institution of choice for students sitting GSAT. I know this remark might get me into a little hot water, especially with the longer established traditional high schools in the region, but for those who doubt me, the records are there.
I am aware that the Ministry of Education has it listed in a category of its own as Technical High but it still falls within the secondary category and Compre has defied the view that high school students are better off separated by gender. As a co-ed institution, it has been making strides in academics and extra-curricular activities.
Starting with the exemplary leadership of your pioneer principal, Lloyd Whinstanley through to your current spirited principal Paul Adams, Herbert Morrison has excelled in schoolboy football by winning the coveted DaCosta Cup and you can boast also of having representatives on the national football and netball teams.
In athletics you have etched your mark at the Penn Relays and of note is that Dexter Lee, the first Jamaican male to win an international gold, achieved this feat while he was a student at Herbert Morrison Technical High.
Your musical talents are also well known with your school band having been the recipient of a Silver Musgrave Medal for Excellence.
If I may mention just one more of your many outstanding achievements, Anphree Wilson is the only student to win all levels of the University of the West Indies Mathematics Olympiad.
It is therefore not an understatement to say Herbert Morrison Technical High, with an enrolment of 1200 students, has been producing well-rounded individuals who, in their senior years, are prepared for the world of work through the specialised skills training they receive from Grade 10 up to Sixth Form.
Your successes reflect the discipline that you have applied to your studies and the hard work of your committed teachers.
But today does not mark the end of anything. In fact, it signals that you have been prepared and are ready to embark on another level in your upward journey of life.
No doubt, many of today’s graduates will be pursuing higher education while others of you will be seeking out job opportunities befitting the skills you have acquired.
Permit me to share one more quote with you, this time from the intellectually revolutionary mind of Malcolm X. He said, quote Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it. End quote
And that brings me to a subject that is very near and dear to my heart, and hopefully to yours as well, given that Montego Bay is a major tourism destination for the over 3 million visitors that are now coming to our shores.
The Government of Jamaica is committed to the development of tourism to enable it to play a pivotal role in driving economic transformation.
We are well on our way to achieving targets of earning 5 billion US dollars from 5 million visitors annually by the year 2021. We are also expanding room capacity by at least 15,000 new hotel rooms with the ultimate aim of pushing direct employment in the sector to 125,000.
That bears significance for you graduates, because regardless of the area that you chose to specialise in, tourism caters for you. But we need to ensure the sustainability of high standards in all areas of the industry, and that is why, starting next year September, we will be rolling out two very important educational opportunities that some of you should be interested in.
A high-level team is now formulating strategies and finalizing plans for the development of a new tourism institute that will open its doors for enrolment next year.
The Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation (JCTI) will be the institution through which the human capital in tourism is strengthened to guarantee delivery of the highest standard of service that, in turn, will ensure sustainability of jobs and incomes.
The Institute will offer a practical curriculum and will complement the current hospitality programmes at the country’s tertiary institutions with its programmes targeting aspiring supervisors, managers and other hospitality professionals in areas such as culinary, spa and hospitality management.
The novelty of the Institute is that while academics will be an important component, the primary focus will on training and boosting competence to increase the capacity of persons to deliver at a high level in the industry with global certification similar to what obtains at the Norman Manley Law School, which provides the requisite accreditation for lawyers across the region.
JCTI will provide TedQual certification, the accreditation of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and TedQual Themis Foundation.
In a nutshell, the JCTI will serve to accelerate the transformation of tourism enterprises by engaging institutions and persons to stimulate and initiate new ideas as well as harnessing science and technology to transfer knowledge into practice within the sector.
Also commencing September 2018, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts will be ready with a Craft Development Institute (CDI) in St. Ann’s Bay, which is now being developed under a memorandum of understanding with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo).
The CDI will provide training and certification to craft producers, supporting the development of authentic Jamaican craft and protecting new designs. I am sure that I could easily find among you some very talented artistes who are pondering where they go from here.
Just in case you didn’t know, the tourism sector spends millions on the acquisition of art and craft for their guest rooms, gift stores and public areas. We want to see all that money spent on acquiring authentic Jamaican art and craft and not some imported imitation that bears Jamaica’s name.
At Herbert Morrison Technical High you may not be aware but over the past three/four years, the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) has spent some $109 million in 15 high schools to equip and enable them to graduate young people who will be ready for employment in the tourism sector.
Five of the TEF’s Centres of Excellence programmes are here in St. James at Cornwall College, Mount Alvernia High, Irwin High, Montego Bay High and Montego Bay Community College. The others are at William Knibb Memorial High in Trelawny; Little London and Grange Hill high schools in Westmoreland; Knockalva Agricultural School in Hanover; Marcus Garvey Technical and Ocho Rios High in St. Ann; Cross Keys High in Clarendon; BB Coke in Manchester; Calabar High School in Kingston; and Paul Bogle High in St. Thomas.
The Centres of Excellence Programme covers training in Home Management, Food Preparation and Nutrition, Woodwork, Photography, Music, Agriculture, Building Technology, Learning Enhancement, Mathematics, Research and Information Technology.
Graduates, you might be too young to remember that one of the slogans we had for tourism years ago which said, “Tourism Is My Business, Yours Too”. Although we don’t use that slogan anymore, the message is always relevant and that’s why as you travel around Jamaica you will see signs that say, “Your Tourism Dollars Working For You.”
Right here in Montego Bay, tourism dollars from the Tourism Enhancement Fund have transformed the Montego Bay Civic Centre into a landmark Cultural Centre.
The Montego Bay and Old Fort Craft Markets are the beneficiaries of tourism dollars, as also the restoration of the historical Dome which marks the location of Montego Bay’s first domestic water supply source, at the intersection of Humber Avenue, Dome and Creek Streets.
So graduates, as you sadly bid goodbye to you glory days at Herbert Morrison Technical High, take heart in the fact that despite the challenges, HOPE lies ahead.
The Government of Jamaica and specifically the administration that I am pleased to be a part of, offers HOPE for a brighter future as we position Jamaica to be the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
Tourism is an integral component of that HOPE and is playing its part in the fostering growth and prosperity.
You have the opportunity to be a part of the fastest growing economic sector worldwide and bring to bear your innovative skills as we strive to transform and ensure the sustainability of our industry and press towards holding the position of being the number one destination not just in the Caribbean, but throughout Latin America. Graduates, I do hope that you will consider tourism as a viable career option.
In closing, I wish to congratulate you on achieving this important milestone and I encourage you to bold, curious and brave as you start your new journey. And never, never stop learning. I look out and see parents, family members and teachers who are beaming with pride. I am proud of you too.