In keeping with the Persons Living with Disability Act, the Ministry of Education has been feverishly working to ensure that children with special education needs are fully catered for within the public school system.
Speaking in the National Assembly during the recent budget debates, Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand made it clear that “we are going to be looking at making sure that our buildings are friendlier, so that we can cater for children with disabilities so that it does not affect their ability to learn.”
In this quest to improve the delivery of special education needs, the Minister said that her Ministry is committed to ensuring that education buildings are designed with those with special needs in mind. This will therefore see buildings being constructed with ramps and even suitable washroom facilities.
“We are committed and we are making sure that every building we build complies with the Person Living with Disability Act…” a passionate Manickchand told the House.
And efforts to improve the delivery of education among those with special education needs have already started since according to the Minister, moves have already been made to relocate the Blind Unit which was once housed at the St. Rose’s Secondary School. Those students, according to her, have been placed in another friendlier environment since September 2, 2013.
However, the Minister asserted that her Ministry is not by any means satisfied with what has been done with those with special needs education.
“We are not happy with that and we are recognising that we are not doing what we are suppose to do; we are not preparing our children with special education needs as best as we can and making them capable of meeting their maximum potential…we would be the first to tell you that we are not happy with the way the education sector has been catering for students with special education needs,” said Manickchand.
It was for this very reason, she said, that the Ministry had spearheaded a countrywide stakeholders’ consultation, which has helped to inform the work of the Ministry, over the next five years, in this regard.
“People have told us what they want; they want us to make sure we look at how we are preparing our teachers, so one of the things that is going to be done as a matter of priority over the next five years, is to make sure that all of the teachers coming out of CPCE are prepared for integrating special education needs children into the classroom,” assured Manickchand.
It was only earlier this year that the Minister intimated plans to give closer attention to teachers tasked with attending to special needs education children, whereby they are treated on par with other teachers. However, she disclosed that such a move will take some work on the part of the Ministry to ensure that this is realised.
Moreover, moves to ensure equality among teachers will see the Ministry seeking to revise regulations governing the operation of Special Needs teachers.
Currently, Special Needs education teachers are not eligible for promotion, a state of affairs that prompted Minister Manickchand to emphasise that “our teachers who have been teaching (Special Needs) have been extremely kind…but at the end of the day, people want promotion and so on. The system we have now does not allow a teacher teaching in a Special Needs School to be promoted and we are fixing that shortly,” declared the Minister.
She pointed out that the Ministry is intent on making sure that the teaching of special needs is seen as beneficial to teachers. As such, Manickchand disclosed that “…we are looking at what incentives are offered to teachers to deliver this very difficult programme.”
But since there are certainly not enough trained teachers to cater to this crucial area, the Minister said that efforts are being made to have greater focus on specifically training teachers in this regard.