Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College, the only teacher training institution in western Jamaica, is located in the salubrious hilly terrains of Granville, St. James, overlooking the bay of Jamaica’s second city, Montego Bay.
It was established in 1975 by the Jamaican Government, under the World Bank II programme and, for 35 years, has been providing a dynamic programme of activities to help trainee teachers actualise their true potential and make their contribution to nation building.
The co-educational institution has been driven by its mission statement, which is a commitment to providing a consistently high standard of training to produce life-long learning professionals, dedicated to rendering altruistic service and to be formidable change agents in the global environment.
Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College was established out of a need to provide quality teacher education in western Jamaica, with the nearest institution of the kind, previously, being Moneague and Bethlehem Teachers’ Colleges, in St. Ann and St. Elizabeth, respectively.
The first batch of 150 students converged on the compound of the then Granville Teachers’ College with sections of the building still incomplete, but the new students were willing and, with an equally enthusiastic staff, the location was quickly made habitable.
Faculty members and heads of academic institutions busy moderating teaching practice grades for student teachers of the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Granville, St. James.
Its first principal, Dr. Simon Clarke, recounts the many and varied challenges that were encountered and conquered, in style, at the commencement of the journey.
“When we all arrived at the college, there were some delays by the contractor to have the facility completed and we were very anxious to get started. We got involved and, in no time, the work was completed, and this helped us to establish a kind of community spirit and an ethic of work among the student teachers, from the very beginning,” Dr. Clarke says.
He says that a way had to be found to blend the purely academic and professional, with personal and community development activities.
The young, energetic and enthusiastic staff threw their energies behind the programme and made it work. The Granville Teachers College was renamed Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College. It happened that the college began to operate at the same time Samuel ‘Daddy’ Sharpe was declared the sixth National Hero of Jamaica.
Students of Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Granville, St. James at work in the Computer Lab on campus.
It is from that very inception of the college that Sam Sharpe, the Baptist martyr, became its patron, Dr. Clarke pointed out.
He states that there were clearly established objectives, and the institution exerted its energy and capabilities on achieving them.
“Apart from building that institution from the ground up, we had basic objectives that we wanted very much to attain,” he says.
One of these was strong academic development, so there was the presence of strong academic training and discipline. Another was strong professional development, as the teacher had to become a master or mistress of his/her art.
“They must know the technique of imparting that knowledge, which they had gained through their academic development and, therefore, from a professional point of view, the classroom practise was also very, very important,” he explains.
There was also personal development which had to do with sensitivity towards each individual, as a human being, and trying to help everyone to understand the value of the human person, “because I believe that each individual was born with an inalienable capacity for excellence,” Dr. Clarke tells JIS News.
Dr. Clarke notes that the spiritual was also important, because it recognised the presence of God, and the importance of developing that spiritual aspect and tying it in with the Creator and the Divine.
He spoke glowingly of the establishment of a computer lab, the first of its kind “probably in the entire Jamaica and the Caribbean region.”
“It was, I think, Mrs. Phyllis Cargill, who was then Senior Education Officer in Mathematics, who had wanted to transfer a mathematics programme, which the Ministry of Education had initiated in Kingston some years before . they wanted to revive this in western Jamaica, and I agreed to accommodate the project at the college,” he says.
He adds that, with the assistance of the Organization of American State (OAS), ten 65K Atari computers were acquired to set up the first computer lab and the Caribbean Mathematics and Science Centre.
“We offered training not only to our own staff and students, but during the summer brought in teachers from around Jamaica and the wider Caribbean for special training in mathematics, physics and computer science,” Dr. Clarke points out.
He says that Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College has maintained the pursuit of its objectives and a mandate that was given to it, and continues to do so, faithfully.
The main programme offered at the College, at this time, is the Diploma in Teaching, which is three years in duration full-time and four years and two summers part-time. There are also courses in Primary, Early Childhood and Special Education, Guidance and Counselling, Music, English Language and Literature, Post Graduate Diploma/Advance Placement, Switching/Upgrading Programme.
In September 2010, the College will commence the four-year full-time degree programme, with the Diploma being phased out. There is also good news for sports-loving students who want to fulfill their dream of a degree in Physical Education, as discussions are underway with G.C. Foster College on this possibility.
Immediate Past Principal of the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College, Dr. Cecile Walden, says that the college has always focused on its role within the community, and from its inception, “hit the ground running.”
“We had to prove to Western Jamaica and to the rest of the world that we could produce capable and well trained teachers, as the other colleges did. We were always challenged by insufficient resources, but we had a strong and committed staff which caught onto the dream and worked with us,” she remarks.
The Retired Educator argues that, if the education system was to successfully accomplish the objectives of diversification in learning and making sure that every child can learn and must learn, special education must receive focus.
“I look forward to the Government recommitting itself to special education, wherein individuals with special needs are given attention, whether they are adults or children. This was the dream that got side-railed when a school wasn’t built on the campus of the college. I believe that the library and resource centre ought to function as the heartbeat of an intellectual institution and, at the moment, we seem nowhere near to achieving this dream,” Dr. Walden points out.
She says her dream and vision for the College, is for the establishment of a fully equipped resource centre, having not just books but the necessary technology for learning so that, while it teaches and trains teachers, it is also for the young learners in Granville, Montego Bay and for professionals, a resource and research centre.
Dr. Walden asserts that the institution was on the road to achieving its objectives, and giving much to the community of Granville and to students and the wider world.
“With the problem of inadequate resources, the self-help approach is very commendable and I thank all the persons who came together to help us make do with what we had. We look forward to that level of partnership with other institutions and individuals who have facilitated this budding city on the hill,” she says.
Dr. Walden was recently honoured by the institution for 40 years of meritorious and outstanding service to education and the community.
Present principal of the College, Dr. Asburn Pinnock, is a past student of the institution, and is among hundreds who have excelled academically.
Since its inception, the Sam Sharpe Teachers College has graduated some 6,000 trained professionals, who are currently impacting positively on world development.