The Government has spent $25 million this year to place 125 students with special needs in various special education programmes throughout the system.
This was disclosed by Acting Chief Education Officer, Dr. Kasan Troupe, at a virtual press conference hosted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, at its National Heroes Circle location in downtown Kingston, on Wednesday (September 30).
Dr. Troupe noted that the sum is in addition to the $148 million that was invested to place 665 students in special education programmes last year.
“We have approximately 4,000 of those (special needs) students that we are working with and we partner with our private educational institutions also to provide services for them, based on their diagnoses. We have a range – visually impaired, behavioural or emotional disorders, and intellectual disabilities – so for those types of needs, we partner with private institutions as well,” she added.
Dr. Troupe noted that the Ministry has also been working with the special needs community to provide the resources required, including tablet computers, to facilitate online learning.
“We audited the system and we also know the needs for tablets and we have been responding to that. Just yesterday (September 29), we allocated another 150 tablets for special needs students, reducing the need to approximately 350 to be filled for them,” she informed.
Dr. Troupe said the Ministry has also been providing additional teachers “to support the students from a distance”.
In terms of support to parents of special needs students, she noted that the Ministry has also held several training sessions with the parents focusing on how to support students from home.
“We have also developed a manual that our parents are working with. For those parents who have children with intellectual disabilities, we had to rework the curriculum, and so we have a manual that our parents have been trained to use, so that they can provide the stimulation and support for our special needs students,” she said.
In addition, the Acting Chief Education Officer informed that the arrangement in relation to the engagement of caregivers for students has been changed as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“These persons are normally deployed at the school level. We have now made the decision to make these persons available at the home level to support the parents,” she informed.
In the meantime, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Fayval Williams, said that special needs students are being provided with devices that are specially tailored for them.
“[For example] we are in the process of downloading special software for those students… who are sight impaired. We have a Braille Division here at the Ministry that has been preparing those materials for our students that are without sight or have limited sight and are dependent on material that’s written in Braille,” she said.
“We know the breadth of disabilities across our special needs students and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that we bring resources to bear, so that those students are also getting the [required] teaching and learning experience,” the Minister added.