Last month the Andrew Holness-led government publicized their intentions to construct Jamaica’s first Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Academy in Greater Bernard Lodge, St Catherine.
The initiative evoked varying reactions from Jamaica’s cultural sector, most of whom were pleased that Holness’ administration intends to invest in the future of the nation’s creative force. However, there were a few who regarded the Prime Minister’s announcement as neglectful, citing that the country already has an institution dedicated to training young artistic individuals.
On the day of the announcement, many Jamaicans on the popular social media platform Twitter expressed their discontent with the government’s intentions. In a tweet that quoted an article excerpt about the declaration, a user stated, “Just so you know there is a college that can do this and already has a course for reggae musicians. It’s called Edna Manley College.”
However, marketing and communications director at Edna Manley College, Coleen Douglas, says the institution does not feel offended by the government’s proposal.
“What I can tell you is that Edna offers a tertiary level training,” Ms. Douglas told Urban Islandz.
She continued, “I really do not see a conflict with the PM’s statement. I think some of it may have been misconstrued based on my knowledge of the proposal for STEAM schools in Jamaica.”
“When the conversation was ongoing about STEM, we the artists had a lot of issues with it because there are a couple of things the country has to face when it comes to preparing artists, especially if you’re preparing them for tertiary level education.”
Ms. Douglas went on to state that the prospect of building a STEAM school could actually benefit Edna Manley College. She says this will equip incoming students with the basic training and skillsets needed to succeed at the university level.
“I hope that it is a training ground for those persons who would like to pursue a higher education in the arts,” she reinforced.
The government’s recent initiatives geared towards developing the creative arts industry has been labeled as progressive by many who see the various projects as a much-needed boost that will aid in developing and sustaining the nation’s cultural impact on the world.
However, Ms. Douglas mentioned that the Edna Manley college, which has been open since 1950, needs immediate infrastructural development.
“I think all of us could do more. The government has a responsibility to always ensure that we have the right facilities that is going to accommodate first class teaching.”
She highlighted having good dance studios, good rehearsal rooms, quality equipment/instruments as well teachers as some of the critical necessities that are in need of attention at the institution.
“If it is that we see profits in a particular industry then the government ought to invest in it.”
“The facilities here are 45 years old, not much has changed since 1976 and so attention ought to be given to the infrastructure. So I do think that there is more than can be done and should be significantly considered,” Douglas concluded.