Gov’t Moves to Increase Number of Special Education Teachers

The government is moving to increase the cadre of special education teachers in the school system this academic year.
Education and Youth Minister, Maxine Henry-Wilson, has said that 120 new spaces have been created for special education teachers and “we hope to be able to fill as many of these for the new academic year.”
Mrs. Henry-Wilson, who was addressing an award ceremony for teachers, who had participated in year-long course to detect language and communication disorder and delay, held yesterday (April 26) at the School of Hope in Kingston, noted that the move is in keeping with the education transformation process, which is aimed at creating a more learner-focused system.
According to the Education Minister, the government recognizes that the number of special education teachers that are leaving college “are nowhere near to the numbers that we need,” and mentioned plans to “bolster the programme at Mico (Teachers’ College)” and introducing a related special education programme at Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College.
Stating that the process will require greater participation on the part of parents, Mrs. Henry-Wilson noted that “for every child, having a parent who understands, a parent who is involved, a parent who has information and knowledge, a parent who can guide the child along the appropriate path, makes all the difference to the achievement of that child. It also builds their self-confidence that they have that support that they need.”
Parents will also receive support through the Early Childhood Education Commission’s recently unfolded comprehensive parenting programme, which involves threshold recognition of children, who are having learning difficulties.
In the meanwhile, the Education Minister said that diversity in delivery will be a necessary part of the process and will include innovations such as the bundling of schools and rental of school spaces to address the needs in the system.
“We hope that during the course of this year, as we introduce some of the new institutions for the transformation process, that we will be able to bundle schools and provide special services for perhaps a number of schools, because we’ll never be able to have one (teacher) for each school at this point in time,” she pointed out.
She observed that the idea of renting school spaces in selected government schools will address the needs of parents, who may not be able to afford to send their intellectually challenged children to special institutions. “We recognize that we perhaps cannot provide the atmosphere for children with extraordinary exceptionalities and so we are working with existing schools, and we’re going to do what we call ‘rent school spaces’ so that we will provide them with a per capita support for each child who is there, and this will also help to meet the needs of the less advantaged in society, who cannot perhaps pay to go to some of the institutions,” she said.
Under this initiative, the Ministry will also give support to teachers on the staff of the schools selected for this project. “Over the last two weeks, we have signed off with a number of schools, because we want to ensure also that there is a level of accountability at the end of that process,” she informed.
Turning to special needs students in higher institutions, Mrs. Henry-Wilson pointed to the provision of facilities for physically challenged students at the University of Technology and University of the West Indies and plans to increase these provisions in the teacher training colleges. Additionally, the Bachelors degree (in Special Education) is being established at the Mico University College under the umbrella of the University of the West Indies.
At yesterday’s award function, 120 teachers were presented with certificates for successfully completing training in ‘Language and Communication Disorder and Delay’, which was facilitated by the Jamaica Association on Mental Retardation.
British speech and language therapist, Heather Daley, conducted the year-long course, which was sponsored by the CHASE Fund and the Commonwealth Secretariat and held in collaboration with the Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education and Youth.

JIS Social