Friday, 10 August 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - The Winston Williams Jr. Scholarship Award Program is once again opened to residents of the St. John’s Rural South Constituency for application to local institutions for continuing education.
Three of these programs land prospects at the Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute (ABHTI).
But while new eager applicants might be lining up to benefit from one of the four available programs, one of last year’s awardees is questioning the circumstances surrounding his scholarship reduction - then outright withdrawal some months ago.
The 38-year-old man and former student of the Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute (ABHTI) had received the EC$2000 scholarship for a Diploma in Food and Beverage Operations at the hospitality school.
Two semesters into the program however, his inability to tolerate what he notes as “belittling attitudes” from teachers to students, followed by a clear ultimatum from management for him to either choose his paid job or the institution’s mandatory “course work” kitchen program, have left him with an uncompleted education.
In explaining the circumstances surrounding his scholarship retraction, Dwayne Thomas told Caribarena that his woes with the institution began with one of the teachers, who is responsible for courses like Food and Beverage, Sanitation and Hygiene and Restaurant Services.
The former student said his issues with the teacher had little to do with her style of teaching and more to do with her attitude towards him as a student. He describes her as always “commanding and demanding” instead of relating to students in a manner that does not stand in line with basic definitions of totalitarianism.
“We just could not get along no matter what we tried. And its not only me, more students in the school don't get along with her because she has this thing that it’s either her way or no way which is wrong for a teacher. Especially one in the hospitality industry,” he said.
In a meeting that involved the teacher, Thomas, another student and ABHTI Academic Director Ercil Charles Jr, the students expressed their frustration with the teacher and her attitude towards them.
It was also reportedly explained at the meeting that Thomas was forced to structure his work schedule around his classes at ABHTI and constantly getting kicked out of class did nothing for his pursuits for higher learning, especially at his age.
Thomas has been an employee at the Mill Reef Club for the past three years and had managed to convince his employers to structure his work schedule around his timetable at the ABHTI. This saw him attending school from 8am to noon, and working from 3pm to 11pm.
The only problem with this was that while he made all his theoretical classes his work conflicted with the practical aspects that required him to work in the school restaurant on Thursdays and Fridays. His fixed days off were on Wednesday and while some teachers understood his commitments to both school and work, others including the school’s Director did not.
The former student explained that both the academic director and the director of the ABHTI had held talks with him when complaints of his absence from the kitchen and dining room were presented against him.
At this meeting, according to him, the two had said that the school had a problem with his inability to be in the restaurant, and demands were made for him to adjust his work schedule further to facilitate the requirements of the school.
Thomas was employed at the same establishment when he was awarded the scholarship, and this was made known to the Winston Williams Jr. Scholarship Award Programme committee. In fact, he explained that he had taken the matter to senior member of the Committee Mrs. Jonas, who also works in the office of Senator Winston Williams, and she reportedly said that the committee “knew” that his work and academics would have clashed at some point or the other.
It was after this meeting with Mrs. Jonas that Thomas said he first experienced issues with his scholarship. He said less than two weeks later he was approached by the Accounts Department of the ABHTI with information that he, who was supposed to be on full scholarship, actually had a backlog of unpaid fees to the school.
Thomas reported that following this financial encounter, the school informed him that it had received a letter from the Minister’s office stating that he had lost the scholarship grant.
“Despite requests to see this letter, I never saw it. It was never made available to me. I was simply told of it and made aware only when the accountant told me that I owed the school money. To my understanding I had a full scholarship,” he said.
Investigations by Caribarena.com have revealed that the letter to the school revoking Thomas’ scholarship came subsequent to a correspondence to the minister’s office signed by ABHTI Director Calvin Ambrose and penned by Academic Director Ercil Charles.
Attempts to secure an actual copy of either correspondence have so far been unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach either Calvin Ambrose or minister Winston Williams.
Academic Director Charles said he could only verify knowing the student and having some knowledge of the situation surrounding him; any other information would have to come at a later date.
“I remember he had issues with work and school. He was a student and his scholarship was rescinded. That is what I can recall,” Charles said.