CAPE, DIFA and the performing arts
Dominica Institute for the Arts has matured to a facility for training artisans locally in the arts to have an esteemed matriculation board, the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination Board to certify school teachers and other practitioners in drama, music, and dance units, in the first instance. Thanks to the untiring unceasing work of the Institutes' director, Athene Murdock- Douglas, under the guidance of Chief Cultural Officer, Raymond Lawrence.
It was easy finding qualified teachers for the various modules as the country has less than a handful trained at degree level to serve as tutors. Mrs. Shenel Jolly - Bethel and Al Mathurin serve as competent tutors who studied in Trinidad and are qualified at the Bachelor of Arts degree level attained from the UWI. In music, it's the veteran and trained professional Huguette St. Hillaire. Dance tutors are Rebecca Warthen and Verna Graham while economist, and former ECCO of Director of the Eastern Caribbean Copyright Organization, McCarthy Marie, tutors the business end of the programme.
It started about six weeks ago and the students seem to be enjoying it, though some complain that it is demanding. This I can also attest to particularly as the programme is one term behind having lost out on September last year due to Covid and other planning and preparation logistics.
This training comes at a time when the Arawak House of Culture is under rehabilitation or reconstruction. It's hard to say given the snail's pace that things are moving. However, one thing is certain that the number of experts in the arts will be quadrupled by summer next year. As exists most of the teachers in the programme have been toiling in the vineyard using drama, music and dance and educational tools in the classroom and in their communities by extension by employing their obvious skills for decades without formal advanced certification. The age ranges are quite broad in the drama and music; from those who have been practitioners for an entire generation to young adult; mainly teachers in Dominican classrooms. As seems to be the unfortunate reality, it's dominated by women and as expected a number of really young dancers are part of the dance module which has by far attracted the most students.
Learning Creole in schools is a brilliant idea but not novel as a few attempts were made in the past but it is very important for a country to train its population and have quality practitioners in the arts. One of the primary reasons that every school doesn't have a qualified performing arts teacher is because arts has never really been a priority. In fact, we have regressed considerably from the 70s when some of our publications were used in the classroom e.g. from Anthony Lockhart and Arundel.
We take teachers like Teacher Adi of Grand Bay for granted because they have been doing this for decades just for the love of the arts.
Thank God for the recommendations made by the Caribbean Examinations Council who elevated Dr. Honychurch history of the Caribbean as the prescribed text for school, as this allowed us some level of pride as most of our students had never heard of Dominicans Jean Rhys or Labour Party's founder, Phillis Shand Alfrey. Since our independence, we have not graduated to the level where our literary artistes have found their work in the classroom. I am pleased to announce that Jeno Jacob's stories may just find their way there and this is positive by the Education Ministry as our standards are as good as any in the region.
Again we can speak of the work of regional great Alwin Bully, a name which I have already suggested must be attached to a refurbished Arawak House of Culture. His work should find a place on our Dominican syllabus within the walls of the classroom.