The Montego Bay Community College, the only multi-disciplinary public tertiary institution in western Jamaica, has been ably addressing the educational needs of thousands of young bright minds in the parishes of St. James, Hanover, Westmoreland and Trelawny over the last 30 years.
Described as the “university college” of western Jamaica, the institution has chalked up an enviable record of academic excellence over the last three decades and will be celebrating that important milestone next year.
Computer Technology students at the Montego Bay Community College are engaged in their lesson.
The Montego Bay Community College open its doors in September of 1975 as an amalgamation of the sixth forms of Cornwall College, Montego Bay High and Mount Alvernia High schools. It was born out of the vision of the then Minister of Education and Governor General of Jamaica, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke. Sir Howard had been a member of a delegation, which visited Puerto Rico in the 1950’s and had seen the community college concept in action.
Those colleges were engaged in providing skills training at all levels, while providing opportunities for adult and continuing education. The model was based on the concept that “education should drive development”. Sir Howard was very impressed with the model and thought that it would be an excellent one to implement in Jamaica.
In the early years, the institution was spread cross three campuses and students studying Advanced Level courses in the Arts were based at Montego Bay High School, those studying Business went to Mount Alvernia and those studying the Sciences were placed at Cornwall College.
Arnel Grant (R), Lecturer in Library Studies at the Montego Bay Community College, points out reference material to students (from left) Sean Stephens and Dorian Morris in the Ivy Townsend Library.
In time, funds were identified for the purchase of the property at Alice Eldemire Drive, where the college now stands.
With the assistance of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), the original set of buildings was completed, so that classes could begin in September of 1978 for the institution’s 75 students.
The first principal appointed to the fledgling institution was Olive Lewis and first Board Chairman was Bishop Neville DeSouza. Their stint at the institution was not very long however, as new appointments took them away before they were able to settle into their positions. Bishop DeSouza was appointed Archbishop of Jamaica and Mrs. Lewis and her family migrated to the Bahamas.
Members of the Montego Bay Community College choir in rehearsal at the institution recently.
They were replaced by Ivy Townsend, who served the institution as principal until October 1987 when she retired, while educator, Dr. Simon Clarke, was appointed board chairman and retained that position until be retired in 2003. The college’s library is named after Mrs. Townsend.
Dr. Lorna Nembhard took up the reins as principal in 1987, serving creditably up until her death in 1999. It was Dr. Nembhard’s vision for the college to have a multi-purpose auditorium that could facilitate indoor sports such as netball, volleyball and basketball. The facility was constructed after she died and was named in her honour.
Present principal is Dr. Angella Samuels, has been at the institution for the last four years. She has been credited with establishing a Senior’s Learning Institute for adults 55 years and over; developing a new strategic plan for the institution; building additional classrooms, offices and students’ rest rooms; procuring scholarships for students coming from non-traditional high schools; introducing mathematics camps and workshops for teachers; establishing the college’s first outreach campus at Frome in Westmoreland and the introduction of a number of degree programmes.
Students from the Business Department of the Montego Bay Community College, carry out their various responsibilities of managing an actual business on the college campus.
With a student population of 1,500 and a staff complement of 53, in addition to a host of part-time lecturers, the college offers a wide range of educational programmes including: certificate courses in food and beverage and cosmetology; associate degrees in hospitality, entertainment and tourism; business studies; modular computer studies; clothing and fashion design; architecture and building studies; industrial systems, operations and maintenance, which, according to Dr. Samuels, is designed specifically for young men.
“The industrial systems, operations and maintenance programme was designed and brought on specifically to target young men out of great concern for the increasingly small number of them pursuing tertiary education”, she tells JIS News.
The course is offered in collaboration with the Caribbean Maritime Institute. Once the students have finished their studies, they can work on ships or as plant managers at companies such as the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo), Dr. Samuels says.
June Clarke, Baking Technology instructor at the Montego Bay Community College take her students through a session.
She also mentions the “new and innovative” associate degree in culinary arts, which is now offered in collaboration with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO). “We at the college are very proud . because we think it is very important that we have some Jamaican executive chefs. In the long run, we aim to upgrade this programme to a bachelor’s degree”, she says.
The college also partners with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Technology (UTECH) to offer diploma courses in engineering; pre- engineering certificate; hotel and tourism management course; and the preliminary science programme, where students go straight into the natural sciences faculty at the UWI after successfully completing their first year at the community college.
The institution also offers five bachelors degree programmes, three of which are done in collaboration with the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica. They are in the areas of hospitality, entertainment and tourism management; information systems and business studies.
Also offered are degree courses in environmental studies, agricultural production and food systems management. “Several adults, teachers and public health inspectors are engaged in this programme, upgrading their education. We are happy that we are meeting the needs of our adults to upgrade and retrain,”
Dr. Samuels says, noting that as part of the programme, students are required to complete at least 30 hours of volunteer work.
In addition, she informs, “we have established leadership workshops where leadership skills, etiquette and protocol are taught, as we believe that tertiary students must provide leadership. We must look to our bright young minds to provide leadership”.
The institutions also offers courses in interior decorating, computer graphics, drapery making and basic Spanish, among others and last summer, was asked to train public sector workers employed at the Cabinet Office.
As the institution continues to improve its service to the people of western Jamaica, Head of the Development and Outreach Department, Beverly Tulloch, informs JIS News, that the college was finalising plans for the construction of a campus in Trelawny.
In addition, she says, plans are advanced for the construction of a new building to house a School of Hospitality, Health and Creative Studies, and a new lecture theatre, which would be fully financed by the Bank of Nova Scotia Limited.
Vice Principal of the College, Maureen Nelson, told JIS News that the institution has the best lecturers and “students cannot get better qualified persons to be their instructors this side of Jamaica.”
Fees range from $7,000 for one Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) or General Certificate of Examination (GCE) subject to $50,000 for the associate degree and up to $79,000 for the two-year degree programme.
“The fees sometimes vary because as one moves up the levels of qualification, the courses range higher. However, students in the day programmes who are having financial difficulties, are assisted through the student welfare fund, which is designed to cushion the expenses to some degree,” Mrs. Nelson tells JIS News.
She explains that this assistance has not been extended to the evening students, most of whom aRE employed, but special arrangements are in place to allow them to pay half of their fees in September and the remaining portion in January.
In addition, students benefit from scholarships valued at $750,000 from the Bank of Nova Scotia. She points out further, that the community college awards eight internal scholarships and several bursaries each year.
President of the student council Cherice Lee, tells JIS News that the institution stands as an “exceptional and respected college” that continues to strive for academic excellence.
“The Montego Bay Community College has a strong record of academic excellence and just last year, one student, because of his academic achievements, was offered some 52 scholarships. My principal once told me that this college was not just a community college but was in fact a university college. I am proud to be a student here”, she says.