THE PASSING OUT EXERCISE AND PRIZE GIVING CEREMONY OF THE EARLY STIMULATION PROGRAMME


Delighted to participate in this Passing-out Exercise and Prize Giving Ceremony of the Early Stimulation Programme.
I pleased to be part of this occasion not only because of the very special love I have for children, but I can well recall back in 1977, as a member of the Cabinet, the decision to take over the funding of this programme. It was then operating under the auspices of a Non-Governmental Organisation with assistance from a Canadian Foundation. It was worthwhile and essential for the continued development of those children who were challenged by disabilities.
RESPONSIBLE CITIZENS
Jamaica needs not only physically healthy children, with ability to perform academically, but children who are mentally healthy and emotionally intelligent.
Emotionally intelligent individuals have superior self-control and ability to motivate themselves. Life is meaningful for them; they are principled and responsible. They manage and express emotions appropriately, being assertive but sympathetic and caring in relationships.
In short, they are better equipped to be worthwhile adults and responsible citizens. GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT
The Government today remains fully committed to providing the necessary resources so that such early intervention in the lives of these young children can help to stimulate them into mainstream activities, and bolster their confidence in coming forward to make their contribution to the development of the Jamaican society.
We have adopted a special approach to the disabled, consistent with international trends, where the focus has shifted from welfare activities to one based on the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities, the removal of all barriers of discrimination and their social and economic empowerment to realise their full potentials.
We are conscious of the need to expand the Early Stimulation Programme, and particularly to allow opportunities for children in the rural parishes to get a fair chance at enhancing their own development.
All the relevant Ministries are now actively pursuing plans to work through the regional health authorities, as well as the rural clinics to making sure that we foster self-determination and very importantly, practise inclusion rather than marginalisation with respect to persons with disabilities.
I congratulate the staff of the Early Stimulation Programme and the Ministry of Labour & Social Security on the work that they have been doing: the Director, Miss Elaine Rainford and all the staff who have contributed.
Congratulate the young ones who have benefited from the programme.
NATIONAL POLICY FOR EQUALISATION
In 2000 we adopted the National Policy for the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. This embodies the principles of equality and non-discrimination. We believe in the principle of the equal worth of all persons.
Our National Policy efforts to combat and prevent discrimination include legislation, social policy and programmes, as well as strategies to raise awareness. The underlying objective is to provide an enabling environment so that persons with disabilities can live an independent and autonomous life.
Over the years several efforts have been made to implement programmes aimed at integrating persons with disabilities in the society.
These include:
. the employment of a quota of persons in the public sector,
. the amendments to the building code to accommodate easy access, and
. the establishment of the Braille and large print section of the Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education, so that textbooks and reading materials can be provided for those persons with visual impairment. PATH PROGRAMME
In introducing the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), the government targeted children aged 0 – 17 years so as to ensure that the education and health of children are not compromised because their parents are poor. We have included strict conditions for compulsory attendance and health requirements because the government is convinced that we have to equip our children with a sound education and provide them with proper health care.
Some 168,000 children will benefit under the programme, and so far more than 100,000 have registered. The feedback from schools to date suggests that there is considerable improvement in attendance levels as a result of this programme, and we are encouraged by their efforts.
EDUCATION
 Education is the main instrument for both social and economic empowerment, and it is only through a solid education that the needs of our job market will be met
 Education is the most effective weapon in the fight against poverty and is key to personal development.
Our policies are beginning to reap success.
More Jamaican children and youth are going to school and entering tertiary institutions.
Access to Education:
 Early Childhood Education is at 94%.
 We have attained universal access at the Primary Level.
 Secondary Level at 70% with enrollment increasing by 60% from 609,317 to 974,550.
 Enrollment of students at the university level has more than doubled from just over 30,800 in 1991 to 74,000 in 2001
We have to deliver a high-quality, world-class, state of-the-art education, to guarantee ability of all our children to compete globally.
Improvements In the Quality of Early Childhood Education
 The HEART Trust NTA has developed a modular approach to certifying caregivers who have no formal certification
 Government has allocated J$50M for an Early childhood Centre
SPECIAL EDUCATION
In the process of schooling, some students are faced with challenges and difficulties in learning, attributable to factors outside of their control. These include environmental and hereditary factors. These difficulties require special educational intervention.
Such interventions are provided through the Special Education Unit in the Ministry of Education. This unit is committed to the development, expansion and maintenance of Special Education from the pre-primary to tertiary levels, through programmes that enrich the quality of education to provide access, equity and relevance throughout the educational system.
As part of establishing quality in the system and expanding the special education support:
 We do not have enough Special Education teachers, so we are partnering with MICO in training “special educators” to identify the needs of the children (those who are gifted and those with learning disabilities), and teach them accordingly.
The end result: –
having “confident, competent, enterprising individuals, capable of functioning in the global economy and sensitive to their possibilities” coming out of the system.
Free Movement
We want to ensure that there are no barriers to impede access to public buildings, places of employment, recreational and entertainment facilities as required by the National Policy.
The Jamaica Urban Transit Company Limited (JUTC) has already put in place buses which are properly equipped to meet the needs of disabled commuters.
The issue of drivers’ licenses for the deaf is being carefully studied to put the required system in place for the granting of such permits in keeping with international standards and safety procedures.
DISABILITY ACT
This Administration is committed to the inclusion of disability issues in all aspects of life to ensure the participation and realisation of the rights of persons with disabilities in a barrier-free society. To reflect this commitment, the government is proposing a National Disability Act to give added strength and legislative support to the National Policy on Disabilities.
We live in an age where persons with disabilities are actively asserting their right to be provided with the facilities to allow them to develop their abilities and display their self-reliance. Disabled persons are seeking opportunities – not charity.
That process must begin here, through the work of the Early Stimulation Programme. The vision of development cannot be accomplished if we fail to provide the opportunities for social, economic, political and cultural advancement of the eight percent of our population affected by disabilities. All of our efforts in this regard must be supported by attitudinal changes in the society at large, which is an essential part of building a more progressive, tolerant and enlightened society. RELOCATION
I once again congratulate all the persons involved in the Early Stimulation project. The government will continue to work in partnership with organisations of disabled persons, NGOs, the private sector and the rest of civil society towards the progressive attainment of the goals of persons with disabilities where they have equal opportunity for participation and inclusion.
It requires the united effort of us all to ensure that these children grow into responsible citizens and able to develop their full potential for advancement and progress.

JIS Social