Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
The Chinese government yesterday took the first step towards accepting an offer of 10 scholarships made by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller for athletes and coaches from the East Asian country to attend G.C. Foster College.
The offer was made in August, during an official five-day visit by Simpson Miller as guest of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
People's Republic of China ambassador to Jamaica, Dong Xiaojun, along with the college's board, and principal Edward Shakes, toured the institution yesterday before engaging in discussions to plan the way forward.
"My purpose of visiting this famous sports college is to know more about the culture and to see what we can do in the area of sports cooperation between China and Jamaica," Dong said. "Of course, we also want to take full advantage of the generous offer by the Honourable Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller.
"And we hope that through some joint efforts, China's athletes and coaches can learn and can train most likely at G.C. Foster College, and through this kind of training we will perform better at international events."
The first batch of Chinese students is expected to be enrolled for the September 2014 term and they will choose from the four-year physical education degree programme or diplomas in coaching, sports instruction or massage therapy.
"We also want to send some Chinese athletes and their coaches to not only take courses here, but participate in sports events here, or maybe just as observers at sports events and training," Dong expressed.
He is also open to the prospect of Jamaican athletes and coaches training in China.
"The prospect is great, as it is good for two countries to learn from each other," Dong shared. "The exchange of students is a good idea, and if my embassy receives any request from the Jamaican side, I will forward this request to the relevant authorities in China."
Shakes is very pleased at the developments, as it is in keeping with the direction that the college is looking to go.
"Going forward, we need to encourage foreign enrolment in order to increase our income, which can help to deal with our facility issues," Shakes reasoned. "Of course, in order to get to the stage where we want to be, we will have to improve some of the facilities, in particular the student house. If we were able to do that now, we would be able to increase the foreign student enrolment significantly."
Shakes is hoping that with the impending arrival of the first group of Chinese students, it will help to fast-track the well-needed improvements to the facility.
"The infrastructure is in need of development and that is something that is being given active consideration by the Government," Shakes highlighted. "Hopefully, this might help to spur the process forward."